Trump taps McConnell aide, Pa. regulator to serve at FERC

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, May 10, 2017

President Trump announced his intent to nominate a top adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and a Pennsylvania regulator to be members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Neil Chatterjee, a longtime energy aide to McConnell, and Robert Powelson, a Pennsylvania regulator who is serving this year as president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, will need approval from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee before moving to the full chamber.

Chatterjee was nominated for a term expiring June 30, 2021, while Powelson’s term would expire at the end of June 2020.

Absent from Trump’s announcement last night was Kevin McIntyre, a co-head of the law firm Jones Day’s global energy practice — rumored to be in line for a third Republican vacancy on FERC and possibly the chairmanship.

Sources last night speculated that McIntyre is being held to pair with a Democratic nominee to replace Commissioner Colette Honorable, who announced last week that she would not seek a second term. But a former transition source said it’s possible McIntyre’s paperwork is not yet complete.

Honorable’s current stint expires at the end of June, but she can stay until Congress adjourns at the year’s end.

Trump’s nominations address a gaping hole in the energy sector that threatened to create a bottleneck in approvals of natural gas pipelines, compressor stations, export terminals and hydropower projects, as well as complex energy rate cases.

Confirmation of Trump’s picks will also shift the agency from Democratic hands to Republican leadership.

The commission is currently being led by acting Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur and Honorable, both Democrats, who have been unable to make high-profile decisions since former FERC Chairman Norman Bay, a Democrat, abruptly left in February, depriving the panel of a quorum.

FERC in February took the rare step of granting agency staff more authority to address matters after Bay’s departure.

Under the order, FERC staff was able to address tariffs and rate filings, waiver requests, and uncontested settlements, and extend the time on some actions where statute permits.

The order also spelled out that “limited commission operations” would continue, including inspecting and responding to incidents at liquefied natural gas facilities and hydropower projects, as well as activities tied to safety or human life and protection of property.