Geof Koss, E&E News reporter
Published: Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said today she intends to move President Trump’s two nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission through the panel “as quick as possible.”
After months of delay, the White House last night said Trump will nominate Neil Chatterjee, a top energy aide for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Pennsylvania regulator Robert Powelson, who is serving as president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (E&E Daily, May 9).
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission nominee Neil Chatterjee on Capitol Hill. Photo by Geof Koss.
Murkowski told reporters this afternoon that she was still waiting for the administration to send over the paperwork necessary for her panel to process the candidates.
“As they come and as we get the paperwork, I want to try to move people,” she said. “The FERC has been without a quorum since early February, and they need the ability to get to work.”
Ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said today that Democrats had submitted a name to the White House for consideration as a replacement for Commissioner Colette Honorable, who announced last week she would not seek a second term.
“We need to get the Democrat out there, too,” Cantwell said today. “The name has been submitted, so it’s up to the White House.”
Honorable has indicated she’s willing to stay on the commission past June if necessary. She would be able to serve until the end of this year.
The Democrats’ pick is expected to be paired with the third GOP vacancy on the five-member commission, a move lawmakers have traditionally employed to ensure independent regulatory agencies like FERC and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are adequately staffed and can act on pending business.
Cantwell said she expects that tradition to continue. She declined to identify who Democrats have recommended to the White House.
Companies FERC regulates have been beating the drum for the president to move with filling the vacancies for months. In a statement today, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson urged the Senate to move quickly on Chatterjee and Powelson.
“There is no reason to delay consideration,” Matheson said. “In fact, the longer the delay, the more daunting the backlog that will face the new commissioners.”
However, in a sign of the political headwinds that have surrounded FERC in recent years, a coalition of state, local and national organizations that are critical of the commission are already calling on senators to reject the two nominees.
“The Trump administration is already demonstrating that it is willing to put the interests of the fossil fuel industry above the health and welfare of communities nationwide, and is willing to push science aside to promote fossil fuels at any costs,” said Todd Larsen, Green America’s executive co-director for consumer and corporate engagement.
“By nominating Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to FERC, the administration is doubling down on a future of fossil fuels for the United States. Both nominations should be blocked.”