The latest on FERC shake-up

Source: By Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner • Posted: Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Trump administration stripped Republican Neil Chatterjeeof his FERC chairmanship yesterday in a late-night bombshell, but don’t expect him to go quietly.

Look for FERC to be even more central as a tool to address climate change in a Joe Biden administration, with Chatterjee poised to be a independent-minded dealmaker through the end of his term in June 2021.

Chatterjee, in an interview with Josh before midnight, said that “perhaps” the Trump administration was retaliating against him for his recent actions favoring carbon pricing and promoting renewables.

“I have obviously been out there promoting a conservative, market-based approach to carbon mitigation and sending signals the commission is open to considering a carbon price, and perhaps that led to this,” Chatterjee said. “Quite frankly, if, in fact, this was retribution for my independence, I am quite proud of that.”

Chatterjee went on to say he looks forward to “advancing the policy initiatives I am quite proud of and protecting my legacy” in his remaining time as commissioner.

That means Chatterjee is positioning himself as a potential “swing vote” on clean energy-related issues once Democrats control the FERC agenda.

Stay with us: Republican commissioner James Danly, who has proven to be more conservative on these issues, is taking over the chairmanship from Chatterjee. But Danly’s leadership will be short-lived if Biden moves quickly to name his own Democratic chairman.

Richard Glick, who notably cheered Chatterjee for his independence last night, is FERC’s lone Democrat. But another Democrat, Allison Clements, could be confirmed by the Senate in the lame duck, along with Republican nominee Mark Christie. That would give Republicans a 3-2 majority, but a Democratic chairman would set the agenda, and Chatterjee could prove to be an ally if Biden seeks to use FERC as a vehicle to advance clean energy.

Where Chatterjee could work with Democrats: “Based on our review of his voting history at the Commission, we would expect Chatterjee might be more likely to find common ground with the Democrats on some electricity market issues than on natural gas pipeline issues,” the research group ClearView said in note this morning.

Chatterjee, who has heralded approvals of a gusher of LNG terminals during his chairmanship, might not support a Democratic agenda that promises to be more skeptical of approving fossil fuel infrastructure.

But Chatterjee has favored the commission doing more to promote offshore wind interconnection and electric vehicles, ClearView notes.