Final FERC nominations draw near

2017-01-27 09_21_38-cheryl lafleur - Bing images and 13 more pages ‎- Microsoft Edge

Reports out of Washington say that President Donald Trump will likely nominate Neil Chatterjee, longtime energy aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Kevin McIntyre, longtime energy-company lawyer, to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

At present, FERC only has two commissioners – both Democrats – after its two Republican members resigned in the past year and the third Democrat and former chair, Norman Bay, resigned. FERC rules require a three-commissioner quorum to issue any rulings, so until at least one of the Republican slots is filled, FERC is largely toothless.

The two potential nominees have long track records to examine – and being subject to Senate confirmation, they will be – but even a cursory glance indicates an antipathy toward the clean-energy revolution that could spell bad news for the solar industry.

Chatterjee, a Kentucky native, has worked for McConnell since 2009 and spent most of that time fighting against implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Prior to coming to McConnell’s office, he lobbied on behalf the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association for more than two years.

He also told Bloomberg Government that he wrote all 50 governors asking them not to implement the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon rules, as well as overseeing legislation under the previously little-used Congressional Review Act to roll back those regulations. The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to undo any regulation implemented in the previous six months and prevents any similar regulation be implemented for a year.

Kevin McIntyre, currently one of the leaders of Big 4 law firm Jones Day’s global Energy Practice, has spent his career as a lawyer for electric and gas utilities, and oil and gas pipeline companies.

His primary focus is on how regulations affect those entities and has often argued cases before FERC on their behalf. He also also is experienced in utility and pipeline rate litigation, utility mergers and acquisitions, and negotiation and drafting of energy contracts.

Those nominations, paired with parallel reports that the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) will have its budget slashed between $700 million and $1.4 billion, may leave clean-energy advocates feeling a little punch-drunk. For comparison, the current budget for the EERE is $2.1 billion.

The reports only confirm the fears that were stoked in solar advocates in January, when reports about similar cuts surfaced in the middle of Rick Perry’s hearings about his qualifications to be the next Secretary of Energy, a post to which he was confirmed late last month.