Hill woes boost agencies’ roles — FERC chairman

Source: Sam Mintz, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, November 2, 2017

Congressional gridlock has expanded the roles of federal agencies in setting policy, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee said in an interview today.

“Because of the difficulty in getting major policy through the legislative branch, more and more public policy is being made in these agencies,” he said. “The role of these agencies is becoming really, really important — FERC, in particular.”

Speaking to several E&E News reporters, he added, “The fact that you guys are interested enough to ask me all these questions, the significance of the agency has never been more than it is in this moment.”

His comments come as FERC is undertaking a rulemaking proposal from Energy Secretary Rick Perry that has massive implications for the energy and electricity industries.

The Department of Energy proposal would allow coal-fired and nuclear power plants in certain markets overseen by FERC to fully recover their costs in exchange for keeping a 90-day supply of fuel on-site. The plan has been praised by the coal and nuclear industries and others that would benefit. It’s been panned by environmentalists, renewable energy advocates and petroleum interests.

FERC is still considering what action to take on the proposal, with a wide range of options and more than 500 comments from stakeholders.

“I was pleased with not just the quantity but the quality of the comments that came in,” Chatterjee said.

The agency has until Dec. 11 to decide its next move.

FERC could adopt the notice of proposed rulemaking or it could reject it and begin its own rulemaking, Chatterjee said.

“What the comments are helping us do is navigate those options,” he said.

One twist: Chatterjee might not be chairman at the Dec. 11 witching hour.

President Trump has nominated energy attorney Kevin McIntyre for a FERC post and tapped him to take over as chairman. The nominations of McIntyre and Democratic Senate aide Richard Glick have been held up, but senators are working on a deal to free them for confirmation (E&E Daily, Nov. 1).

Chatterjee said he is “pretty excited” about McIntyre taking the FERC gavel.

“Having gotten to know him on a personal level, I think we will work very well together,” Chatterjee said. “I hope that he will look to the work that I’ve done since I had this opportunity.”

He added, “I think the three months I’ve spent as chairman to date have probably been more involved than some people have in years. I hope that when I hand the gavel over to Kevin, that I can look him credibly in the face and say, ‘I did the best I could, and I did it right.’ I have full confidence that he will take the baton from me and run with it, and I will be right there with him.”