FERC remains an independent agency and recent comments by Chief of Staff Anthony Pugliese don't necessarily reflect the views of Commission, Chairman Kevin McIntyre said in a recent letter to two powerful Capitol Hill Democrats.
Last month, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) said they were "deeply troubled" by public statements by Pugliese, "which indicate the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is working with Trump administration officials at the Department of Energy and National Security Council on an ill-conceived plan to interfere with the operation of the nation's wholesale electric markets. We believe this action would violate the requirement that FERC remain a neutral and unbiased decisionmaker."
Pugliese made the comments on Aug. 7 at a meeting of the American Nuclear Society in Amelia Island, FL, according to published reports. The Democratic lawmakers said they were also concerned by Pugliese's appearance in July on Breitbart News. During the 20-minute radio interview, Pugliese defended Energy Secretary Rick Perry's notice of proposed rulemaking, which appeared to support mainly the coal and nuclear industries.
FERC "remains independent and impartial," McIntyre wrote in a letter to Cantwell and Pallone dated Aug. 24 that was released Thursday by Cantwell's office.
"Commission staff has not discussed the merits of any 'grid resilience' proposal that would seek to prefer one form of generation over another with executive branch officials. Commission staff does, however, have regular contact with counterparts in the Department of Energy on a host of matters of shared responsibility including intelligence, personnel and legal process."
As for concerns about comments by Pugliese possibly revealing FERC's views on issues, "the Commission speaks exclusively through its orders," McIntyre said.
"Consequently, neither the public statements of Mr. Pugliese nor those of any other FERC staff member can state the views of the Commission, particularly in connection with proceedings on which the Commission has not issued an order on the merits."
McIntyre said he authorized Pugliese to appear on Breitbart News Sunday and to speak at the American Nuclear Society.
"Speeches and remarks by members of the Commission's senior staff are routine and commonplace, and I had no basis for concern with Mr. Pugliese's participation in the interview or speech...[T]he specific subjects of his remarks were not subject to review and were not identified in advance."
Cantwell is ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Pallone is ranking member on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.