Twitter Spat Erupts as FERC Chair Scolds Colleagues for Post

Source: By Chris Martin, Bloomberg • Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2019

The top U.S. energy regulator is chastising his colleagues in a very public Twitter dispute that shines a light on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s inner workings.

“I do not discuss the commission’s internal deliberations with the public,” FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said Tuesday on Twitter. “Doing so would be highly inappropriate.”

Chatterjee was responding to an earlier tweet from the agency’s two Democratic commissioners. Richard Glick and Cheryl LaFleur said they were “disappointed that the commission failed to act” on an offshore wind project’s request for an important waiver.

Neil Chatterjee tweet

Vineyard Wind LLC is developing the first large-scale U.S. offshore wind project, and in December requested a waiver that would have let it bid in a New England power market auction that began Monday. Because FERC didn’t respond, the company couldn’t participate, and “the commission has introduced significant uncertainty into this auction,” according to Glick and LaFleur.

 Vineyard Wind on Monday asked the agency to step in to halt the auction, or else nullify the results. The agency hasn’t responded to that request either.

The Vineyard Wind dispute follows one that emerged in December, when the agency tabled a item regarding a liquefied natural gas export terminal. FERC has been split 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans since Kevin McIntyre, a commissioner and former chairman, died after a battle with brain cancer.

The statement from Glick and LaFleur “was a conscious attempt to exert external pressure on the chairman,” said Mike McKenna, a Republican energy strategist. “It was done on behalf of an effort to bend markets.” A FERC spokesman declined to comment.

The partisan split may lead to more gridlock from the agency.

“It is somewhat unusual to see FERC comments like these,” Shahriar Pourreza, an analyst at Guggenheim Securities LLC, said in a note Wednesday. The social media postings are “only further fueling our view that major policy initiatives may be delayed until the impasse is resolved.”

— With assistance by Jennifer A Dlouhy