Panel to question FERC picks on climate, infrastructure

Source: By Jeremy Dillon, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, September 14, 2020

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will this week consider a pair of nominations — one Republican, one Democratic — to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The hearing launches the confirmation process for Democratic pick Allison Clements and Republican nominee Mark Christie.

It comes six months after an earlier nomination process generated partisan acrimony, largely because of the White House’s delay in naming Clements.

This time around, members of both parties are confident the bipartisan pairing will allow FERC to have a full panel of members for the first time since 2018.

“In a political climate that is often paralyzed by partisanship, a bipartisan FERC is more essential than ever,” ENR Committee ranking member Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in a statement after the president nominated the duo in July.

“I thank the President and the White House for nominating both a Democrat and Republican today because it is an important step towards restoring a fully seated Commission,” Manchin added.

Clements emerged as the Democrats’ choice in February of last year after Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) decided not to support an extension of former Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur’s tenure.

Clements heads the clean energy market program at the Energy Foundation. She previously worked with the Natural Resources Defense Council on FERC-related issues in its Sustainable FERC program.

Controversy erupted late last year when the White House nominated Republican James Danly for commissioner but did not name Clements at the same time. Democrats accused the GOP of breaking the tradition of considering nominees in bipartisan pairs (Greenwire, March 3).

Democrats threatened to make the next nomination process even more difficult should the White House opt to tap only a Republican.

ENR Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) vowed to consider a Democratic nominee quickly, as soon as the White House picked one.

“I have made the commitment that when that [Democratic pick] is received, I am ready, willing and able to move very, very quickly on that, and I would intend to do so,” Murkowski said in March.

Christie’s nomination was a surprise to many observers. Chosen to replace former Commissioner Bernard McNamee, he was not on the media’s radar.

Christie would join the agency from the Virginia State Corporation Commission, where he has served for the past 16 years as one of the panel’s most veteran members. Sources paint him as outspoken, a deep thinker and a firm adherent to the letter of the law (Energywire, Aug. 4).

That philosophy is likely to come under questioning from committee Democrats, who have been pushing FERC to do more to address climate change.

Republicans, meanwhile, will ask nominees about FERC’s role in natural gas infrastructure and cybersecurity.

Questions from both sides of the aisle about pipelines and natural gas export terminal applications are sure to be prominent.

Schedule: The hearing is Wednesday, Sept. 16, at 10 a.m. in 366 Dirksen and via webcast.

Witnesses: Allison Clement and Mark Christie.