Colette Honorable, who has served at FERC since late 2014, announced late Friday that she will leave the Commission when her term expires at the end of next month, a move that would leave the already quorumless panel with a single member -- Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur.
"After much prayer and consideration, I've decided not to pursue another term at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission," Honorable said in a statement posted on the FERC website.
"I am especially grateful to President Obama for appointing me to this post. I'm also grateful for the support I've received from Minority Leader [Chuck] Schumer [D-NY] and [Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources] Ranking Member Maria Cantwell [D-WA], as well as Chairman [Lisa] Murkowski [R-AK] and Arkansas Senator [John] Boozman [R-AR]. I appreciate the strong bipartisan support I've enjoyed over the years and look forward to continuing this important work after leaving the commission."
Honorable's term is scheduled to expire June 30. Her departure would leave four empty seats on the ostensibly five-member Commission. FERC suspended its monthly meetings beginning in February as it awaits appointment of enough commissioners to achieve a quorum.
Obama nominated Honorable, a Democrat, in August 2014 and she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate four months later. She received bipartisan support during vetting by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. She is a former chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission and a past president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC).
To the surprise of many, while President Trump continues to emphasize an aggressive, "all of the above" approach to domestic energy production, the administration has yet to announce any nominations to FERC, despite the fact that the Commission has been without a quorum -- and therefore powerless to vote on important projects or rules -- for nearly three months.
The logjam at FERC began days after Trump's inauguration, when he named LaFleur acting chairman and Norman Bay, who had been at the helm since April 2015 submitted his resignation. It was the second time around for LaFleur, who chaired the Commission for a time before Bay took over. Given the multiple issues and cases across FERC's regulatory span encompassing oil and gas pipelines, electric transmission lines, Independent System Operators, and hydroelectric and liquefied natural gas projects, it's possible the president might leave the relatively non-partisan LaFleur in her post as chairman temporarily.
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 commissioners. Some environmental groups have objected to those letters, saying they'd rather see FERC remain without a quorum.
Last March, there were reports that Trump planned to nominate as many as three individuals to FERC in a move that would have restored the Commission's quorum and allow it to continue with its work, including the approval of oil and natural gas pipelines. Trump planned to nominate Kevin McIntyre, an attorney with law firm Jones Day, and install him as the new chairman, according to reports at that time. Reports also identified Neil Chatterjee, a longtime energy policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), as a possible FERC nominee.
At the same time, there were conflicting reports about a possible third nominee. Some reports identified Robert Powelson, a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, as one potential candidate. Other reports mentioned Patrick McCormick, chief counsel for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Ellen Nowak, chairwoman of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, as possible nominees.
Also rumored to be potential FERC nominees are Travis Kavulla, a member of the Montana Public Service commission and former president of NARUC; Janet Sena, director of public policy and external affairs for the North American Electric Reliability Corp.; and Former Railroad Commission of Texas Chairman Barry Smitherman.
The White House did not immediately respond to an NGI request for comment.