Time for the U.S. Senate to Step Up on FERC Nominees

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Cheryl LaFleur

One is the loneliest number. Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur is the sole FERC commissioner as nominees await Senate approval.

The pipeline industry was all excited about the prospect of restoring a quorum to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when President Donald Trump named two nominees in May. FERC lost its quorum to operate in February, leaving several major gas pipeline projects in limbo, including the $2 billion NEXUS Gas Transmission project.

But now the Senate is letting everyone down, while FERC is reduced to a single commissioner, Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved both of Trump’s nominees, Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson, on June 6. Ever since then, they have been awaiting final approval by the full Senate.

In the meantime, former Commissioner Colette Honorable’s term expired June 30. Trump was ahead of the game in announcing a third candidate to replace Honorable on June 28. Richard Glick of Virginia, if approved, would serve the remainder of a five-year term expiring June 30, 2022.

Glick is general counsel for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Prior to joining the committee staff in February 2016, he was vice president of government affairs for Iberdrola’s renewable energy, electric and gas utility and natural gas storage businesses in the United States. Between 1998 and 2001, he served as a Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson.

If all three FERC nominees are approved by the Senate, one open seat would remain. Many reports have linked Kevin McIntyre to the final vacancy. McIntyre co-leads law firm Jones Day’s global energy practice.
Five months have passed since FERC lost the ability to approve new interstate gas pipeline projects.
What’s the holdup, Senators?

Trade groups recently sent a letter urging Senate leaders to schedule a vote on the nominees. The June 20 letter, addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), was signed by 30 organizations, including the American Gas Association (AGA), American Petroleum Institute (API), Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL), Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) and Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA).

“Robust energy infrastructure creates jobs, improves safety and spurs domestic investment and these benefits are placed in jeopardy when FERC seats are left empty,” the letter stated. “Restoring a quorum at FERC is a bold step toward a stronger future, and we ask that you do so as quickly as possible.”
It’s time that the Senate do its job and fill these vacancies to ensure a robust energy industry in North America.

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