Enviro groups move to block FERC nominees

More than 100 environmental groups are launching a quixotic campaign to shut down major decision-making at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by opposing any new nominations to the agency.

The coalition is headlined by Josh Fox, who directed the controversial anti-fracking film “Gasland.” It comprises Green America, Delaware Riverkeeper, Food and Water Watch, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and other national and regional groups, as well as numerous state and local groups that campaign around air, water and pipeline issues, according to a press release.

“Currently, only two out of five commissioner positions are filled at FERC, which means the administration would greatly impact FERC’s direction with new appointments,” activists said in a press release distributed by Max Karlin, a spokesman for Green America. The groups plan to hold a call tomorrow detailing their campaign that aims to “push against any new FERC commissioners and highlight the concerns with FERC’s regulatory oversight.”

FERC’s five-seat panel of commissioners is down to just two members since the resignation last month of Norman Bay. His departure left the group without the quorum needed to issue approvals for major pipelines and other infrastructure (Energywire, Feb. 6). Certain lower-level decision-making authority has been delegated to FERC staff in an effort to keep as much of the agency’s work as possible on track.

Natural gas industry groups and infrastructure companies, as well as members of Congress and other industry stakeholders, have been pushing the Trump administration to nominate and win approval of at least one new commissioner as soon as possible to get the commission back to work. But many acknowledge that identifying new leaders for the wonky regulatory agency may be low on the priority list for a White House that is pushing several higher-profile policy proposals.

The coalition of environmental groups opposing any new FERC appointment is an unlikely foe of the influential energy industry. Last week, a Huffington Post story suggested the administration may be looking for ways to sidestep legal requirements for partisan balance on FERC and similar commissions, aiming to stack them with leaders sympathetic to the administration’s goals.

Twitter: @JennyMandel1 Email: jmandel@eenews.net