In a break with precedent, FERC Chief of Staff Anthony Pugliese took to the airwaves July 8 to talk politics and promote the Trump administration's positions on controversial energy policies.
Appearing on Breitbart News Sunday, Pugliese defended Energy Secretary Rick Perry's notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR), which appeared to support mainly the coal and nuclear industries and was presented to FERC last September, as a necessary bulwark to maintaining grid resiliency and U.S. national security. In January the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously rejected the NOPR.
But "it couldn't be farther from the truth" that Perry is seeking to subsidize coal and nuclear, according to Pugliese, formerly a senior White House advisor at the Department of Transportation. "Those two resources...have a lot of resilience attributes that, from a national security perspective, are hard to deny. I think that as we talk about cybersecurity, or electromagnetic pulse, or geomagnetical disturbances, all of these sorts of things that we as the federal government need to take into account, there are certain attributes that these two generation sorts or types have that others do not. And I think having more tools in the tool belt is better than having less.”
Perry recently said the Trump administration does not yet have an estimate of how much a controversial proposal to extend a lifeline to struggling coal and nuclear power producers would ultimately cost.
A portion of the 20-minute interview with Breitbart was devoted to criticizing Democrats for what Pugliese and the show's host characterized as anti-energy politics.
"You still have some parts of the country that are controlled by members of the Democratic party and others that are determined to ensure that no infrastructure goes through their states and are determined to say no just because the Trump administration is supporting it...and for the sole reason of politics," he said. "They are putting politics above the best interests of not only the consumers in their states, but also national security." His favorite example of that practice, he said, is the importation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) into New England during this year's bomb cyclone.
"For purely political reasons, some governors and other state and local entities are blocking our ability to put the infrastructure in,” Pugliese said.
Asked to "talk all about sort of the differences between the emphasis that Trump has been putting on about working with businesses and making things easier for business owners and what not, versus those policies that were being pushed during the Obama administration," Pugliese implied that the U.S. shale revolution, generally recognized as beginning more than a decade ago, came about thanks to Trump administration policies.
During his campaign Trump promised to bring the steel industry and manufacturing back to Pennsylvania and other places, Pugliese said. "When we were able to find the Marcellus Shale, [when] we identified the Utica Shale, and we really began to unleash the Pennsylvania and the U.S. resources, the economic boom, you can't argue with it. I mean, we are putting people back to work, people are able to put food on the table for their families, and we're seeing the return of economies for example in parts of Pennsylvania that people never thought would occur."
Pugliese was named chief of staff at FERC in August 2017 by then-Chairman Neil Chatterjee. Prior to coming to FERC, Pugliese served as White House advisor at the Transportation Department since the beginning of the Trump administration in January 2017. He also has been director of legislative affairs for former Pennsylvania Gov. Thomas Corbett, and served on Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale Commission.
It is the first time in recent history that a staff member has grabbed the limelight with political comments. The chairman usually speaks for the Commission and individual commissioners may express their views.
The Commission recently took another hit when Republican Commissioner Robert Powelson declared at the end of June he would be resigning in mid-August. In several recent cases on critical pipeline certificate issues the Commission has split 3 (Republicans) to 2 (Democrats). With Powelson gone, any similar cases could very well be split 2-2. With the Supreme Court nomination and coming elections hanging over the Congress, it’s unlikely there could be swift confirmation of a new FERC commissioner.