Hearings on two Trump FERC nominees set for tomorrow

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has been paralyzed into inaction since last year because it didn’t have the three-commissioner quorum necessary to transact business. That paralysis may soon be coming to an end.

Tomorrow, President Donald J. Trump’s two Republican nominees – Neil Chatterjee and Rob Powelson – will appear at confirmation hearings before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. If they pass the committee, they will go to the full Senate for a vote.

Most attention is being paid to Chatterjee because of the expectation that, if confirmed, he would take over as chairman of the commission. Prior to his nomination, Chatterjee was the top energy advisor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and liaison with the committee that may vote to send his name to the Senate for final confirmation.

In that position, Chatterjee has led efforts to shepherd through the Senate laws to eliminate regulations on the fossil-fuel industry and worked to eliminate the decades old ban on U.S. crude oil exports. Before his position with McConnell, Chatterjee worked in a governmental relations position with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which in March released a study showing that rural cooperatives are betting heavily on solar energy.

Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) released a statement in full-throated support of Chatterjee’s nomination.

“AEE strongly supports the nomination of Neil Chatterjee to serve as a Commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” said Arvin Ganesan, AEE’s VP of federal affairs. “Chatterjee shares our fundamental belief that markets thrive when there is true competition on the basis of all the attributes various technologies have to offer. We look forward to working with Mr. Chatterjee and other commissioners of FERC to accomplish this goal.”

Powelson would join FERC from his position as president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, an advocacy group that, among other activities, has tried to standardize regulations on solar to streamline the permitting process. He has been on Pennsylvania’s Public Utilities Commission since 2008 and has also served as its chairman.

FERC, an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil, requires a three-commissioner quorum to issue any rulings. Presently, 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. Until the three Republican slots are filled, decisions will continue to be handled by the commission’s staff.