Coalition urges confirmation delay, Trump investigation

Hannah Northey, E&E News reporter
Published: Monday, May 15, 2017
https://www.eenews.net/eenewspm/2017/05/15/stories/1060054570

Environmentalists want the Senate to delay confirmation hearings for vacant Federal Energy Regulatory Commission posts until President Trump’s business ties and former FBI Director James Comey’s firing are investigated.

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Photo by Ryan McKnight, courtesy of Flickr.

More than 160 groups opposing President Trump’s nominations for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission called today for delaying Senate confirmation hearings while lawmakers probe the president’s potential conflicts of interest and ties to foreign governments.

“President Trump’s unknown personal and professional ties with foreign leaders and foreign corporations raise serious and legitimate concerns for those he would seek to install in these highly consequential positions,” a number of groups, including the newly formed “FERC Vacancies Campaign,” wrote to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Also signing the letter were Green America, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Beyond Extreme Energy.

The groups, which are also meeting with members of the Senate panel next week, argue that Trump’s FERC picks — Neil Chatterjee, a top energy aide for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Pennsylvania regulator Robert Powelson — could be subject to “behind-the-scenes pressure” from the president.

FERC is led by acting Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur and Colette Honorable, both Democrats, who have been unable to make high-profile decisions since former FERC Chairman Norman Bay abruptly left in February, depriving the five-seat commission of a quorum.

“FERC’s role in protecting the U.S. energy grid is essential to our national security,” the groups told Murkowski. “Recent events regarding President Trump’s firing of FBI Director Comey, including his apparent demand for loyalty in how the Director carried out his decision making and activities as head of the FBI, heightens our alarm and concern.”

Their letter is part of a broader effort to align FERC critics with bipartisan fallout Trump is facing after the firing last week of FBI Director James Comey. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) urged the president to stop talking or tweeting about the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and allow the inquiry to move forward.

In their letter, the groups demanded Chatterjee and Powelson’s confirmation hearing be delayed until a hearing is held to investigate “multiple and documented reports” of what they say amounts to FERC misusing its authority to block challenges to federal pipeline approvals, rushing environmental assessments and unfairly granting eminent domain.

Delaware Riverkeeper has made similar arguments in court. In April, the group filed an appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, challenging a lower court’s decision to toss a lawsuit against FERC for its alleged bias toward approving pipelines (Energywire, April 21).

Despite calls for a delay in FERC confirmations, Murkowski last week said she’ll move “as quick as possible” to restore FERC’s quorum.

And Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the panel’s ranking member, said last week that she was unfamiliar with Powelson but planned to research his background. Cantwell also said she’d already had a brief conversation about “market manipulation” with Chatterjee. The FERC nominee had also helped Cantwell and Murkowski navigate energy conference talks with the House last year, the senator said.

Ted Glick, a member of Beyond Extreme Energy, acknowledged calls for a delay may not stick given the bipartisan push to re-establish FERC’s quorum and the agency’s ability to make high-profile decisions.

“We know it’s a long shot, we’re not stupid,” Glick said. “We also know it’s the right thing to do. Sooner or later, you start winning victories.”

Reporter Geof Koss contributed.

Twitter: @HMNorthey Email: hnorthey@eenews.net

The Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources Needs Your Phone Call Now!

Urgent – the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources Needs Your Phone Call …Now!

They are planning to schedule hearings that would install Donald Trump Nominees at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

FERC is notorious for abusing its legal authority and peoples’ rights.

e.g. FERC routinely strips people of their legal right to challenge pipeline projects until it is too late – until property rights have been stripped, forests cut, and people are forced to live next to explosive fracked gas pipelines and compressors.

Right Now, FERC Can’t Approve Any Fracked Gas Pipelines or LNG Export Facilities Because they Don’t have the Legal Quorum Necessary to Cast Binding Votes. We need to keep it that way.

And we certainly don’t want a Donald Trump appointee, with a 5 year term, who will be expected to be loyal to a President with unknown business ties to nations and companies around the world.

Remember – this is not a political issue – this is a people issue.

Don’t’ let anyone suggest to you otherwise.

Call Your Two Senators & Then 3 Members of the Senate Committee

Simply Say:

  1. I am calling to urge the Senator to oppose hearings on the President’s nominations for the vacant FERC Commissioner Seats.
  2. Instead I want the Senator to make it his/her/their top priority to hold hearings into the abuses of power and law being experienced by communities across this nation at the hands of FERC and to identify needed reforms.
  3. Without hearings and reforms FERC will continue to abuse its power and the health, safety and welfare of all decent people here in America.
  4. Installing Commissioners advanced by a President with business interests around the world that conflict with good decision-making and energy policy here in the U.S., particularly one that demands loyalty to himself from his agency heads, is a serious national security risk.

Don’t know your Senators phone number? Find it here: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/senators_cfm.cfm?State=MA

The Members of the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources are:

Democrats:

Senator Maria Cantwell, Minority Ranking Member: 202 224 3441

Senator Bernie Sanders: 202 224 5141

Senator Al Franken: 202 224 5641

Senator Ron Wyden: 202 224 5244

Senator Debbie Stabenow: 202 224 4822

Senator Angus King: 202 224 5344

Senator Mazie Hirono: 202 224 6361

Senator Tammy Duckworth: 202 224 2854

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto: 202 224 3542

Senator Joe Manchin: 202 224 3954

Senator Martin Heinrich: 202 224 5521

Republicans:

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Chair: 202 224 6665

Senator Rob Portman: 202 224 3353

Senator John Barrasso: 202 224 6441

Senator James Risch: 202 224 2752

Senator Mike Lee: 202 224 5444

Senator Jeff Flake: 202 224 4521

Senator Steve Daines: 202 224 2651

Senator Cory Gardner: 202 224 5941

Senator Lamar Alexander: 202 224 4944

Senator John Hoeven: 202 224 2551

Senator Bill Cassidy: 202 224 5824

Senator Luther Strange: 202 224 4124

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Thanks to Maya van Rossum and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network for putting together this call-in.

We Are Seneca Lake Claims Victory; Crestwood Retreats from Gas Storage Expansion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

We Are Seneca Lake Claims Victory; Crestwood Retreats from Gas Storage Expansion


Contact: Jan Quarles (607) 280-7730; Laura Salamendra (315) 759-8880; Michael Dineen (607) 280-2510.

May 10 Geneva, NY—We Are Seneca Lake is celebrating a successful campaign forcing Crestwood’s retreat from plans to expand methane storage in unstable salt caverns along the shores of Seneca Lake.  In a two and a half year campaign, over 650 people from around the region were arrested protesting the Texas based corporation’s plans threatening Seneca Lake.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had granted a permit for the gas storage project in October, 2014 (which was renewed in May, 2015).

In response to the October 2014 permit, We Are Seneca Lake began protesting in front of Crestwood’s gates as part of a groundswell of community opposition to Crestwood’s project threatening the drinking water for over 100,000 residents living around Seneca Lake. The project put the region’s agriculture and eco-tourism in jeopardy, and would have expanded fossil fuel infrastructure over the growth of green energy jobs. The shaky shale formations in which the caverns are embedded also raised serious geologic concerns.

“I took a stand against Crestwood because we had no choice,” said Laura Salamendra, a member of We Are Seneca Lake in Geneva.  “This is our drinking water, the drinking water of our families.  The project threatened our safety and we couldn’t allow it. We would fight longer than them because it wasn’t about profit, but about protecting one another. We have to do that when government agencies won’t.”

“It takes consistency and dedication, and we had that,” Salamendra continued. “It started small but it grew larger than we could have imagined.”

In the beginning of the movement, 10 activists were arrested in front of the Crestwood facility late October, 2014.  Word spread through the community quickly and mass arrests soon became frequent as grandparents, students, farmers, scientists, contractors, cooks, and those in the wine industry came out to express opposition to the project.  A few celebrities even traveled to the small town of Reading in Schuyler County to add their voices to the chorus. Climate change author Bill McKibben, actor James Cromwell, and filmmaker Josh Fox joined the ranks of those protecting Seneca Lake. In all, there were 657 arrests as part of We Are Seneca Lake’s campaign in front of Crestwood’s gates.

“Don’t think people can’t make a difference,” Salamendra added. “People can prevail.”

“We could not have done this without all the people who stood up to Crestwood when they stood out in the cold, the rain, who were forced to endure hazardous storms, unconstitutional court closures, and a biased judge who ruled us guilty before he even listened to us.  We are so grateful for the assistance of lawyers like Sujata Gibson and all of our Seneca Lake Defenders who stood up to injustice.  This is truly a victory for people power,” said Jan Quarles, another member of We Are Seneca Lake from Ovid, NY.

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FERC Nominees will move ‘as quick as possible’ — Murkowski

Geof Koss, E&E News reporter
Published: Tuesday, May 9, 2017
https://www.eenews.net/eenewspm/2017/05/09/full

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).

pic chatterjeeFederal 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.”

Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office Requests Rehearing, Says FERC Violated the National Historic Preservation Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 9, 2017

PRESS CONTACTS:
Anne Marie Garti, Esq, 718 601-9618
Doug Harris, Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, 401 474-5907

Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office Requests Rehearing Says FERC Violated the National Historic Preservation Act

Rhode Island  The Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office (NITHPO) filed a request for rehearing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today, accusing the agency of violating the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by delaying the study of ceremonial stone landscapes until a year after it issued its environmental assessment of the project and by failing to consult with NITHPO to resolve adverse impacts to over twenty religious and cultural features. This is a breach of FERC’s fiduciary duty to the Indian tribe.

FERC authorized Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, LLC (TGP) to proceed with construction on the Connecticut Expansion Project on April 12, 2017.
FERC’s order said that all the environment conditions had been met and federal authorizations received. NITHPO’s request for rehearing shows that procedures required under Section 106 of the NHPA were not followed.

“Instead of consulting, FERC just told us what TGP was going to do,” said Doug Harris, Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Narragansett Indian Tribe.

TGP’s Treatment Plan calls for destruction and reconstruction of one-third of the seventy-three ceremonial stone landscapes. Mr. Harris characterizes this plan as an act of desecration.

“These are ‘prayers in stone,’ ” he said. “If you take them apart and reconfigure them, then what you have is an artistic replica of something that was spiritual. Once you remove the stones, the spiritual content is broken.”

FERC not only failed to engage in meaningful consultations with NITHPO, it also delayed studying these cultural resources until it was too late to protect them.

“The NHPA requires federal agencies to study cultural resources before they issue a license, so that adverse impacts can be avoided,” said Anne Marie Garti, attorney for NITHPO. “FERC admitted that by the time the survey of ceremonial stone landscapes was performed it was too late to pick an alternative. That means FERC broke the law.”

In addition to its statutory requirements, FERC is obligated to hold government-to-government consultations with Indian tribes. It is not authorized to delegate this duty to TGP or to any other project proponent. Federal agencies are also required to treat tribal resources like assets in a trust. By waiting until it was too late to avoid these cultural resources, FERC breached its fiduciary duty to NITHPO.

Field Report: Bird-dogging at Duke CEO Lynn Good’s House

by Steve Norris

Six of us went to Duke CEO’s home at 5 pm [on May 4th, 2017] and set up a picket on public property next to the road at 2327 Vernon Drive in Eastover Charlotte. This is a quiet street in an upscale neighborhood where old houses are being demolished so that McMansions can be built in their place. Lynn Good’s house is one of those new McMansions, and another one next door to her house is partially framed on a site previously occupied by a smaller house. There is a “For Sale” sign in her front yard.

IMG_1523                           (Greg Yost and Steve Norris in front of Lyn Good’s house.)

When we arrived  Pat Moore knocked on her front door, which was opened by her husband Brian Good, who welcomed Pat, but did not seem pleased at our purpose or the letter which Pat delivered from BXE (a copy of letter is attached). The letter, under the heading Dhoyle Land Services, said in part:

“This notice is to inform you that employees of Dhoyle Land Services will soon be surveying your property at 2327 Vernon Drive in preparation for a pipeline which Duke Energy and Dominion Resources are proposing to install on your property. We are sorry if this in any way inconveniences you. But as you know, even though studies show the gas is not needed, pipelines like this are necessary to satisfy the greed of Duke Energy’s executives and shareholders for increased profits.”

It should be noted that Doyle Land Services, from New Orleans, is the company Duke and Dominion have hired to do their dirty work with landowners on the ACP route. Doyle is known to manipulate, bribe, lie, bully, harass, threaten, and come on private property without permission and remain even when asked to leave.
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During our visit there were two cars in Lynn Good’s driveway. One was a Prius.
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Drivers passing by seemed curious about us and our picket, but no one stopped to complain or to ask for more information. However, a neighbor from across the street talked to us on and off for about an hour, was genuinely curious to learn about the issues we were raising, and took extensive video and photos. Her children spent time with us too.  She thought Brian and Lynn  Good were good neighbors.

About  30 minutes into our visit, Officer Dano of Charlotte Mecklenberg police arrived. We had a pleasant and extensive interchange with him. He was curious about our reasons for protesting. Eventually he told us we would have to leave because of a Charlotte ordinance forbidding pickets and protests in front of residences that lacked sidewalks. We had a 15 minute discussion with him about this ordinance and its meaning, and argued that we had a right to be on public property.  He finally said  we would be issued citations if we did not leave. At that point John Moore politely demanded that we be able to talk to his supervisor. Officer Dano agreed, and we spent another 45 minutes picketing and waiting for the supervisor to arrive. During this time we talked at length to Officer Dano, about Duke, Lynn Good, the ACP, and officer Dano’s work (he had just dealt with a suicide that afternoon and was visibly shaken).

Meanwhile a reporter/videographer from Spectrum TV showed up, shot footage and interviewed us.

Eventually, about 6:30, we decided we had accomplished what we set out to do – to let Lynn Good and her neighbors know that we hold her personally responsible for the damage Duke Energy is doing to North Carolina residents, families, children, communities, environment and the climate. We packed up and left.

All six of us agreed that our visit to Lynn Good’s house was worth the time, effort, controversy and push-back it generated. Some of us may return. We need to find out where she is moving when her house on Vernon Drive sells.

Stop The Atlantic Coast Pipeline

April 28, 2017, the FERC in Washington — Beyond Extreme Energy once again used food and friendliness to communicate a serious message at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a $5 billion high pressure fracked gas pipeline proposed for WV, VA, and NC. Among its many potential harms, it would negatively impact farmland and farm families along its 550 mile route. BXE’s sweet potato action gave voice to impacted communities in all three states while focusing on the particular concerns of sweet potato farmers in NC (NC is the nation’s leading producer of sweet potatoes).

No 2nd Term for FERC’s Colette Honorable

April 28, 2017
By Michael Brooks

(https://www.rtoinsider.com/ferc-colette-honorable-42235/)

FERC Commissioner Colette Honorable announced Friday she will not seek a second term on the commission. Her current term expires June 30.

“After much prayer and consideration, I’ve decided not to pursue another term at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” Honorable said in a statement. “I appreciate the strong bipartisan support I’ve enjoyed over the years and look forward to continuing this important work after leaving the commission.”

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Honorable at an EBA event in 2016 | © RTO Insider
Honorable was nominated by President Barack Obama in August 2014 to fill the remainder of former Commissioner John Norris’ term. The Senate unanimously confirmed the former Arkansas Public Service Commission chairman in December 2014. (See Senate Confirms Honorable to FERC.)

Neither Honorable nor FERC said when she would leave the commission. “We have nothing more than her statement,” a FERC spokeswoman said.

Honorable could serve until her successor is confirmed or the end of the current Congressional session, whichever comes first.

In the past, some commissioners have stayed on past their terms’ expiration dates, saying they would wait until a replacement is named.

But Commissioner Tony Clark left at the end of September last year after his term expired in June without any nomination being submitted. And the commission has been without a quorum since February, when Chairman Norman Bay resigned after President Trump named Cheryl LaFleur acting chair.

Honorable had been interviewed on E&ETV’s “OnPoint” web show April 24 and gave no hint of her impending decision. She also said the commission was “hopeful that any day, any week we will hear who the nominees will be” and that she had no insight into when they would be announced.

Stakeholders and members of Congress have grown increasingly agitated that the president has not submitted any nominations to the Senate.

Honorable’s chances of being reappointed diminished with Trump’s election. Although the commission has not traditionally been marked by partisan divisions, the president gets to appoint members of his party to three of the five seats and pick the chairmanship. (See CPP, FERC’s Bay, Honorable Among Losers in Trump Win.)

Since Republicans Philip Moeller and Clark left, the five-member panel had been all Democrats: Honorable, Bay (whose term ran through June 2018) and LaFleur (June 2019).

Although Bay’s departure left an opening for a second Democrat, FERC insiders had not expected Honorable to remain.

Maggie Henry’s Story

My name is Maggie Henry. My husband and I own 100 acres of what used to be bucolic paradise in North Beaver Township, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. I’m writing to urge you to take part in the March for Climate, Jobs and Justice in DC and around the country on April 29th. We need to stand up in big numbers on this day!

Here’s my story:

In 2006 my organic farming business was taking off beyond my wildest imagination. I kept adding more products to my market, the customer demand was insane! In a 2 year period I went from 24 laying chickens to 400 and I literally could not keep up or keep eggs in stock at the East End food co-op in Pittsburgh. Following a story on the front page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the demand just soared. The following year I was actually on the cover of the family section of the New York Times for my Heritage turkeys.

Right around this period the voice of Terry Greenwood, a farmer a couple counties away, crossed my radar. Terry’s story about the devastation that a company called Dominion Resources had done to his farm was just incredible and heartbreaking. I began researching fracking and decided very early on that it wasn’t something that could coexist with organic food production and began objecting to the early gas development in my area. Within the next decade I would literally come to feel like the Biblical Job of fracking! Fracking has destroyed my business and laid to waste everything my husband and I have worked our entire lives to build, our children’s inheritances, keep the farm going yet another generation? All destroyed!

Life in the shalefields of Pennsylvania is poisonous, now proven by over 700 studies, including an EPA one this past December where they were forced to admit to lying about groundwater contamination from the slurry of poisonous chemicals forced into Mother Earth.

Earthquakes, over 80 of them since March of 2014, have destroyed the integrity of my basement foundation. Water now pours down the walls in a rain storm. They shattered my chimney flue pipe and cracked all my drywall. The roof with 40 year shingles we replaced in 2008 now leaks from the ground shaking, the shingles bumped up from the tremors.

I cannot be on the farm for more than a day before the toxic pollution spewed into the air from the cryogenics plant near the farm causes my heart to do somersaults in my chest. We were forced to flee 2 years ago, take out a mortgage on a 3rd house, 3 hours away from our beloved farm. 2 houses stand vacant on the farm, we pay those taxes and the insurances as well!

As if all that isn’t enough I live in terror of pipeline explosions because the adjacent farmer leased his land to the pipeline company. These monstrous snakes were routed 30 feet from the farm house living room and run next to our property a mere 12 inches away. Can you even imagine yourself in this dire situation? We are not wealthy people, we never have been, taxes and insurances are a constant struggle, always have been!

Worst of all the fracking corporations have stolen from me the right to grow old raising my grandchildren on the land their parents roamed, as did four generations of our previous ancestors.

How is all this possible in America, land of the free, home of the brave? I now know what the Palestinians have endured over all these years. I understand their resistance, what choice do they really have? What choice do I have? So I protest, all over the state, and in DC too.

This is where BXE enters the picture. In the fall of 2014 I traveled to DC to take part in a week-long nonviolent blockade of FERC. I was one of about 80 people arrested that week, and I’ve continued to be active ever since.

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BXE has been a lifeline for me. Being associated with like-minded individuals around direct action nonviolent protest is just incredible! The support is emotionally healing in a way I find difficult to describe. Their support has moved the nagging question beyond “What did we do to deserve this?” To “What can I do to change things for the future?”

I’m planning to be in DC again in a couple of weeks to take part in BXE’s April 26-29 convergence and actions. You can find out more and sign up here. And I’m really looking forward to taking part in the massive March for Climate, Jobs and Justice on the 29th, and I hope everyone reading this is too.

And you know that BXE needs your financial support to keep going. Please donate here.

Let’s change things for the future!

For BXE,

Maggie Henry

Theories, rumors abound on FERC vacancies

Hannah Northey and Rod Kuckro, E&E News reporters

Published: Friday, April 21, 2017

Companies and lawmakers have been wondering what’s taking the White House so long to fill three vacancies at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

A few theories making their way through energy circles include lengthy background checks, debates about which nominee should be chairman and the bipartisan pairing of candidates.

“Everyone is scratching their heads as why it is taking so long to move formal nominations for FERC,” said Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s energy program.

More than two months ago, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said President Trump vowed in a meeting with lawmakers to fill the empty slots. Then came surefire signals that decisions were underway with the surfacing of key names.

Today, agency watchers and commission members are still waiting.

One former transition source said the debate over who should serve as FERC chairman is at the heart of the administration’s delay.

Possibly up for the job are Kevin McIntyre, a co-head of Jones Day’s global energy practice; Neil Chatterjee, a longtime energy aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.); and Robert Powelson, a Pennsylvania regulator who is serving this year as president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

Currently leading the agency is acting Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur, accompanied on the panel by Commissioner Colette Honorable. The duo, both Democrats, have been unable to make high-profile decisions since former FERC Chairman Norman Bay, also a Democrat, abruptly left in February, depriving the panel of a quorum.

Some sources say the Trump administration’s hangup stems from a long queue of nominee background checks that can take months to wrap up.

Others suggested it may have more to do with the practice of pairing up nominees by party. Democrats getting a pick may make them more likely to agree with a GOP choice.

Slocum threw out another theory, pointing to Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s recent memo calling for a study of the effect of clean energy subsidies on the U.S. electric grid and baseload power.

“I have to think that the holdup there might be a vetting process to see particularly if the incoming FERC chair is going to align with the kinds of objectives and tone that we see in this memo here,” Slocum said.

Green groups have seized on the lack of quorum to challenge FERC actions. The Sierra Club, for example, asked a federal court in March to block the agency’s approval of the $3 billion Atlantic Sunrise pipeline.

The group argued FERC rushed the decision on Bay’s last day and failed to make critical environmental information available, thereby violating the National Environmental Policy Act (Energywire, March 14).

Twitter: @HMNorthey Email: hnorthey@eenews.net