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Trump's FERC, DOE Nominees Set For Senate Hearing May 25

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has scheduled a hearing at 10 a.m. EDT May 25 to consider President Trump's nominations of Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to be members of FERC and Dan Brouillette to be deputy secretary of the Department of Energy.

The White House announced May 8 that Trump would nominate Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, with each to complete the incomplete terms of former commissioners, in a move that would reconstitute a quorum at the regulatory panel.

Last week Trump has said he intends to nominate Chatterjee, a longtime energy policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), for the term expiring June 30, 2021, that was previously held by Tony Clark, who left FERC last September. Powelson, a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, will be nominated for a term expiring June 30, 2020, that was previously held by Philip Moeller, who left FERC in October 2015. Their nominations will need the approval of the committee and the full Senate before they can take their seats at FERC, a process that could take several months.

There are currently three empty seats at FERC and the expected exit of Colette Honorable at the end of June will leave the ostensibly five-member panel with a single member -- Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur. There is some question about the likelihood of LaFleur remaining at the helm at FERC, since she is a Democrat and Trump and his nominees are Republicans. There have been reports that Trump plans to nominate Kevin McIntyre, an attorney with law firm Jones Day, to FERC and install him as the new chairman. McIntyre currently serves as co-head of the firm's global energy practice.

Trump first announced that he intended to nominate Brouillette to DOE on April 3. Brouillette is head of public policy for USAA, a former vice president of Ford Motor Company, and previously served as chief of staff to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. He also served as assistant secretary of energy for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs from 2001 to 2003 and was a member of the Louisiana State Mineral and Energy Board from 2013 to 2016.

The nomination process has so far been "torturously slow," Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said at a forum hosted by the American Council for Capital Formation in Washington, DC, Wednesday.

"It's been almost a little bit painful, because we've been given kind of an early heads up about some of the names that will be coming forward and we're told that they're moving along, and yet getting the papers up to the committee has been slow," Murkowski said.

Murkowski and the committee's ranking Democratic member, Maria Cantwell (D-WA), previously expressed their frustration at the continuing lack of a quorum at FERC. Dozens of members of the House of Representatives, including members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, have called on Trump to prioritize the nomination and confirmation of FERC commissioners. Some environmental groups have objected to those letters, saying they'd rather see FERC remain without a quorum.

The committee held a hearing Thursday morning to consider the nomination of David Bernhardt to be deputy secretary of the Interior.

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