Schumer offers clean energy lawyer for FERC — sources

Source: By Rod Kuckro and Hannah Northey, E&E News reporters • Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has recommended Allison Clements, a well-known energy lawyer, to replace Cheryl LaFleur on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to sources familiar with the decision.

Clements, currently the director of clean energy markets at the Energy Foundation, has a long history of providing clarity to clean energy groups and the public on complicated policies and rulemakings at FERC.

She is a frequent speaker at energy conferences on FERC, wholesale energy markets and grid resilience. Those issues, as well as the commission itself, have grown in prominence as the grid, renewable power and fossil sectors have evolved.

In January 2018, Clements testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the performance of the electric power system in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic during extreme winter weather events.

“She’d be awesome. I have admired her work from afar for ages,” said Alison Silverstein, a Texas-based consultant who was a senior adviser to former Chairman Pat Wood III at FERC.

“She’s super-smart; a really good lawyer and thoughtful. She doesn’t leap to conclusions. I think the biggest drawback to her getting confirmation in the Senate is her long environmental associations and career,” Silverstein said.

“She would bring far more experience at FERC than many nominees,” added Ari Peskoe, director of the Harvard Law School’s electricity law program.

Traditionally, past administrations have deferred to Senate leaders on choices for agencies such as FERC, especially when they are from the minority party. But President Trump could reject Schumer’s choice for any reason.

And typically when there are two vacancies for commissioners from both parties, they are paired on Capitol Hill to ease the confirmation process. Last week, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Republican chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said she was waiting to do just that but first needed a name from the White House for a Republican nominee to replace Kevin McIntyre, a Republican commissioner who died last month.

FERC Commissioner Richard Glick said he had been in contact “with several people on Capitol Hill,” including the offices of Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who during the previous Congress was the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“I don’t want to go into specifics of the conversation I had,” Glick said, adding that he emphasized “the urgency of getting a name up to the White House.”

As for the practice of pairing nominees of different parties, Glick noted that he was paired with McIntyre for his confirmation.

“There’s a lot of comity” with that process, he said. “That’s the way the Senate has worked traditionally, and I expect that will be the situation again this time around.”

Clements joined the Energy Foundation in January 2018 after nine years with the Natural Resources Defense Council, where she directed the Sustainable FERC Project, which aimed to translate FERC’s often-convoluted regulatory debates and decisions for the general public (Greenwire, March 18, 2014).

After that, Clements had a consulting firm, Goodgrid LLC, for a year that focused on clean energy policy and grid strategy.

Before NRDC, Clements was in private law practice at Troutman Sanders and Chadbourne & Parke, providing federal regulatory advice to utilities and independent power producers, as well as negotiating power purchase and interconnection agreements.

She has a bachelor’s degree in environmental policy and behavior from the University of Michigan and a law degree from George Washington University Law School.

Murkowski today said she did not know why Democrats moved away from another term for LaFleur, who said Thursday she would not seek a third term after it became clear she lacked Schumer’s support. LaFleur’s term expires June 30.

“I think it was pretty clear that Sen. Schumer was ready to send another name forward,” Murkowski told reporters, noting she expected the White House will stick with sending a Democrat in the tradition of the commission makeup.

“It’s just a question of when, just like on the Republican side, a question of when, so we are all just sitting and waiting and holding tight,” she added. “In the meantime, there’s an awful lot of work that needs to be getting done.”

Reporter Jeremy Dillon contributed.