Republican FERC commissioner Robert Powelson to resign amid fight over coal bailout

Source: By Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner • Posted: Friday, June 29, 2018

Robert Powelson, a Republican member of the Federal Regulatory Commission, announced Thursday he is resigning effective in mid-August.

Powelson, a nominee of President Trump who has been in office for less than a year, took to Twitter to say he is leaving FERC with “mixed emotions” to become president and CEO of the National Association of Water Companies.

“It has been an honor to serve this great country,” Powelson said. “My family and I are deeply appreciative of this opportunity. FERC is a world-class organization. Thanks to you, fellow FERCians!”

Powelson was nominated to FERC in May 2017 and confirmed in August. FERC members serve three-year terms.

His departure comes at a crucial time for FERC, which is grappling with how to value different energy sources as the power grid transitions away from coal and nuclear to lower cost natural gas and renewables.

A fierce defender of competitive markets, Powelson has been especially outspoken against Trump’s interest in subsidizing money-losing coal and nuclear plants.

FERC, which is independent, in January unanimously rejected a proposal from Energy Secretary Rick Perry to provide special payments to coal and nuclear plants for their ability to store fuel on-site for 90 days. But the Energy Department is considering a new proposal, potentially using executive national security powers to go around FERC.

“FERC does not pick winners and losers in the market,” Powelson said in testimony before Congress this month. “A hard and fast mandate on these markets could evaporate all the goodwill consumers have seen. To erode that would be a real step back in the bulk power system.”

“The restructuring of these markets is the one of the largest transfers of wealth in this nation, and I think it’s something we should not retreat on,” Poweslon added.

Powelson is a former chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

Cheryl LaFleur, a Democratic FERC commissioner, said Thursday she is “sad” to hear Powelson is resigning.

“You will be missed,” LaFleur said in a tweet.