FERC's new -- and temporary -- Chairman, Neil Chatterjee, is confident that the work done by a skeleton crew during the Commission's months without a quorum will help him, former Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur and Commissioner Robert Powelson to quickly begin to address a backlog of applications.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, nominally composed of five members, had not had a quorum since Chairman Norman Bayresigned Feb. 3, and was reduced to a single member, LaFleur, when Colette Honorable left at the end of June. Chatterjee, whose nomination was confirmed by the Senate earlier this month, joined LaFleur when he was officially sworn in at FERC last week.
"If not for just the incredible work and commitment and dedication of Commissioner LaFleur and the FERC staff, I would be really daunted and worried about the task ahead of us," Chatterjee said in a brief audio recording posted on the Commission’s website Monday. "But Commissioner LaFleur and the staff have done so much of the groundwork in preparing for the return of a quorum that I feel very confident that we'll be able to work through it.
"I look forward to talking with my colleagues and staff to triage the orders and start going through them. It's going to take some time, but because of all the tremendous work that has already been done to date, we'll be able to achieve that."
Former Pennsylvania state utility commissioner Robert Powelson was officially sworn in as the third commissioner -- and the quorum-maker -- at FERC last Thursday. Chatterjee was officially named FERC chairman that same day, to serve until Chairman-to-be Kevin McIntyre’s nomination clears the Senate. The Trump administration’s nomination of Democrat Richard Glick is also pending in the Senate. Both nominations are scheduled to be considered by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Sept. 7.
Applications for a couple major pipelines, such as the Nexus Gas Transmission project, along with numerous other infrastructure projects, have been in limbo since Bay's resignation robbed FERC of its quorum.
FERC's website lists 47 major pipeline projects pending, some filed as long ago as 2013.
"Of course my first priority is to get started on the accumulated backlog," Chatterjee said. "I heard about it all through the Senate confirmation process. There's a lot of consternation out there, and I'm committed to working with my colleagues to get after it right away.
"I'm also committed to the resilience and reliability of our electric system. These are essential to national security, and to that end I believe baseload power should be recognized as an essential part of the fuel mix. I believe that generation, including our existing coal and nuclear fleet, need to be properly compensated to recognize the value it provides to the system…
“As a nation, we need to recognize that coal, along with gas and renewables, continue to be part of our diverse fuel mix. I'm also looking forward to following the president's charge to create jobs and stimulate growth through infrastructure. I believe working through the backlog, especially evaluating the infrastructure projects before the commission, really could help spur economic development."
FERC has set its first public meeting since January for Sept. 20.