Thirty trade associations, including several representing the natural gas and oil industry, are urging Senate leaders to act quickly on President Trump's nominations to FERC.
"We ask you to schedule votes" to confirm nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “to fill the existing vacancies as soon as possible," the associations wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) dated June 20.
"Robust energy infrastructure creates jobs, improves safety and spurs domestic investment, and these benefits are placed in jeopardy when FERC seats are left empty. Restoring a quorum at FERC is a bold step toward a stronger future, and we ask that you do so as quickly as possible."
FERC has been without a quorum since January, when President Trump named Cheryl LaFleur acting chairman and Norman Bay, who had been at the helm since April 2015, submitted his resignation. There are currently three empty seats at FERC and the expected exit of Colette Honorable at the end of this month would leave the ostensibly five-member panel with a single member -- LaFleur.
The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), which was one of the signatories of the letter, has estimated that about $15 billion of shovel-ready, natural gas pipeline projects have been sidelined by FERC's lack of quorum.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee gave its approval two weeks ago to Trump's FERC nominees -- Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson -- but they must be confirmed by the full Senate before taking office. Their nominations were placed on the Senate Executive Calendar June 6, but no votes have been scheduled.
President Trump nominated Chatterjee, a longtime energy policy adviser to McConnell, 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, was nominated for a term expiring June 30, 2020, that was previously held by Philip Moeller, who left FERC in October 2015. Powelson serves as the president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and is on the Electric Power Research Institute advisory board.
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.
There have also been published reports that Rich Glick, a staff member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and former vice president at Iberdrola, will be nominated to FERC.
By law, no more than three members of FERC may be from the same political party.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) have expressed their frustration at the continuing lack of a quorum at FERC.
Trade groups signing the letter Tuesday included the American Chemistry Council, American Gas Association, American Petroleum Institute, Association of Oil Pipe Lines, Independent Petroleum Association of America, INGAA, Natural Gas Supply Association and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.