The U.S. Senate confirmed Howard "Skip" Elliott to serve as administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Thursday, but a motion to confirm Kevin McIntyre and Richard Glick to FERC was set aside after one senator objected.
The nomination of Elliott, a 40-year veteran of the U.S. freight rail industry currently serving as vice president of public safety, health, environment and security for Jacksonville, FL-based CSX Transportation, was supported by oil and natural gas trade groups. The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) was quick to applaud Elliott's confirmation.
"Elliott brings extensive experience and leadership in safety, security, operations and emergency management to PHMSA," said INGAA CEO Don Santa.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) was also enthusiastic about Elliott's confirmation.
"With over 40 years of service in the transportation sector and over a decade of experience in a public health and safety issues, Mr. Elliott is the right person to encourage the development and use in the field of new technology, designs and materials in support of PHMSA's safety mission," Inhofe said.
But it was Inhofe who delayed action on the nominations of McIntyre, a Republican, and Glick, a Democrat, when he objected to a motion by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for their confirmation by unanimous consent.
"Given the unprecedented obstruction by the Senate Democrats to President Trump's nominees, I could not allow confirmation of the pending Democratic FERC nominee to move forward without more nominees included as well," he said following the session. "The price was too low, particularly given the fact that there is an agency with only one political appointee confirmed."
Murkowski said she hoped "that we will be able to come to agreement with regards to the nominees," which were unanimously approved last month by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Murkowski chairs.
"This is a commission that has been without a functioning quorum for months on end," Murkowski said of FERC. "They have just recently been able to achieve that quorum, but they're not yet to a full complement.
"We had worked hard to reach an agreement with colleagues so that these names could advance, so that the FERC could get to work in an expeditious manner. There is much to be considered, and the work that has piled up, that has cost our economy, that has cost our country over these many months as we've seen these delays because you don't have a functioning FERC, have been considerable. We want to try to reach agreement, but I am disappointed that we're not going to be able to advance them this afternoon."
McIntyre, an attorney with Jones Day who currently serves as co-head of the global energy practice, was nominated by President Trump to a term at FERC that expires on June 30, 2018, and an additional term expiring June 30, 2023. McIntyre would be installed as chairman upon confirmation.
Glick, who has been general counsel for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, would serve the remainder of a five-year term expiring June 30, 2022.