President Donald Trump announced May 8 two nominations that, if approved, will help alleviate the logjam in federal approvals for pipeline projects. Neil Chatterjee and Rob Powelson are in line to be the next commissioners at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which has authority over interstate natural pipelines in the United States.
FERC has lacked the number of commissioners needed to approve new projects since the January resignation of Norman Bay. If the Senate confirms Chatterjee and Powelson, they would join acting chairman Cheryl LaFleur and commissioner Colette Honorable. (Honorable’s term expires June 30.)
Chatterjee of Lexington, Kentucky, is energy policy advisor to United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Over the years, he has played a role in the passage of major energy, highway and farm legislation. Prior to serving as an aide to McConnell, Chatterjee worked as a principal in government relations for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and as an aide to House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio. If confirmed, his term would expire June 30, 2021.
Powelson has served as a commissioner on the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) since 2008, and was appointed chairman in 2011. Currently, he serves as the president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) based in Washington, D.C. He serves on the Electric Power Research Institute Advisory Board (EPRI). If confirmed, his term would expire June 30, 2020.
Oil and gas pipeline industry representatives are applauding the nominations. The American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of American (INGAA) both recognized the president’s actions and called for the Senate to move quickly to confirm Chatterjee and Powelson to restore a quorum at FERC.
“This action by the administration is an important step to establishing a working quorum at FERC,” said API Midstream Group Director Robin Rorick. “Now, the agency will be able to continue its essential duty of advancing critical infrastructure projects around the country and setting essential energy market rules.
“We appreciate the Senate’s commitment to act on President Trump’s well-qualified nominees and look forward to working with the Trump administration and Congress to promote forward-looking policies that advance our nation’s energy leadership throughout the world.”
INGAA president and CEO Don Santa highlighted the large backlog of projects waiting for FERC approval.
“The president, and many members of Congress, have stressed the economic importance of developing infrastructure across America,” Santa said. “Natural gas pipelines are a form of infrastructure built with private capital, rather than government funds.
“We estimate that about $15 billion of shovel-ready, natural gas pipeline projects are stranded on the sidelines because FERC’s lack of quorum prevents the commission from acting on major energy projects. To build this infrastructure, we need a functioning FERC to act on pending natural gas infrastructure projects of national importance. The nomination of these individuals to serve at FERC will mark a step toward improving the nation’s energy infrastructure.”