Natural gas industry calls for new FERC nominee

Source: Jeremy Dillon, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The natural gas industry pressed the White House today to fill the empty slot on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to enable billions in infrastructure project permitting to move forward.

In a joint letter, the American Gas Association, the American Petroleum Institute and other natural gas groups urged President Trump to fill the vacant seat left by the death of former Chairman Kevin McIntyre at the beginning of this year with a new nominee.

The commission currently has two Republican and two Democratic commissioners. That divide has caused some projects to stall over partisan differences on environmental and climate impacts.

“The lack of a full commission can delay the approval of pending projects, such as natural gas infrastructure projects, thereby hindering the advancement of critical infrastructure,” the groups said in the letter.

FERC’s approval process is a key element of unleashing the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” on the world stage, including through the movement of natural gas through pipelines and export terminals.

The White House signed an executive order last week to speed up the approval process for energy infrastructure in a sign of its seriousness about further unleashing the United States’ energy potential.

“A full complement of FERC commissioners is critical to achieve the administration’s goal to streamline the review and permitting of natural gas infrastructure projects,” the groups said.

The White House had centered its nominee search on former NRG Energy Inc. General Counsel David Hill for much of the year, but it decided to move away from officially nominating Hill in March after a lobbying campaign from some of Washington’s highest federal energy officials, including current Chairman Neil Chatterjee (Greenwire, April 12).

A new nominee has yet to emerge.

Democrats also will have an opportunity to fill a vacancy from their side of the commission. Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur will not seek another term, which expires at the end of June. She can keep serving until the end of the calendar year.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) identified Allison Clements as the Democrats’ preferred choice, although the White House has not made any direction about its acceptance of her as a nominee (E&E News PM, Feb. 5).