Regulatory decisions on billions of dollars in energy projects could be coming soon, now that two recently confirmed nominees have been sworn in to seats on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
FERC now has a quorum to enable it to vote on a list of infrastructure projects that have been awaiting commission approval for months. FERC announced that it will resume holding monthly open meetings, with a session on Sept. 20.
Neil Chatterjee, former energy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), was sworn in on Aug. 8 and and Robert Powelson, a Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner was sworn in on Aug. 10. The Senate confirmed Chatterjee and Powelson on Aug. 3.
President Trump on Aug. 10 appointed Chatterjee as FERC chairman, but Chatterjee said he will serve in that role until another Trump nominee, attorney Kevin McIntyre, is confirmed.
Chatterjee and Powelson join holdover commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to constitute the needed three-member quorum. The commission, which has five members when at full strength, had lacked a quorum since Feb. 3.
Chatterjee announced that the commission will
LaFleur said in a statement, "With a quorum restored, our first order of business is the backlog of orders and issues that are awaiting commission consideration."
Energy industry groups welcomed the Senate’s approving the nominees, by unanimous consent, and are hopeful that FERC will begin to act on pending projects and other issues.
They include what the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America estimates are $14 billion in natural gas-pipeline projects that have been on hold or in danger of delay.
Natural gas pipeline projects that are, or may have been, affected by the lack of a quorum include Dominion Energy’s 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia to North Carolina, estimated at $4.5 billion to $5 billion; and the 255-mi. NEXUS pipeline from Ohio to Michigan.
FERC also is responsible for deciding on applications for liquefied natural gas terminals. Daphne Magnuson, a spokesperson for the Natural Gas Supply Association, said via email that even without the quorum, FERC’s staff has been able to review applications.
She said eight LNG export projects have been undergoing full FERC reviews “and the timeline on these was not materially affected.”
Magnuson added, “However, if the lack of quorum had stretched on, it would have affected investor confidence and had a chilling effect on capital investment.”
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said in a statement that Chatterjee and Powelson “certainly have their work cut out for them, but I’m confident they will work to quickly get this independent agency back on track and tackle the important work that has been deferred.”
President Trump is moving to restore FERC’s full complement of five commissioners. Trump on Aug. 2 sent the Senate two more nominees for the commission—Republican McIntyre, energy practice co-leader at law firm Jones Day; and Democrat Richard Glick, a Senate energy committee aide.
Murkowski has scheduled a Sept. 7 hearing on McIntyre and Glick.
Story updated on Aug. 11 with swearing in of Robert Powelson, Neil Chatterjee's appointment as FERC chairman.