While a few technical items must still be addressed, Chairman Neil Chatterjee on Thursday declared the backlog of cases that built up during FERC’s recent no-quorum period cleared following the unanimous approval of a lengthy consent agenda.
With that action, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has voted on a total of 344 orders since the reestablishment of a quorum, Chatterjee said.
“It’s an impressive accomplishment, and one that we should all be proud of,” he said.
Chatterjee, who was previously an energy policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), was sworn in as FERC chairman in August.
Chatterjee opened FERC’s monthly public meeting with a review of his tenure, taking time to thank commissioners Cheryl LaFleur and Robert Powelson. “It’s been a privilege to work with such dedicated public servants and wonderful colleagues,” he said.
A backlog of applications built up at FERC beginning in early February, when then-Chairman Norman Bay resigned, leaving the Commission without a quorum and, therefore, unable to vote on major issues. The quorum was reestablished when the Senate confirmed Chatterjee and Powelson in August.
“The no-quorum period was an unprecedented challenge, yet the staff never stopped working,” Chatterjee said. “They kept their heads down, working as diligently as ever, to make sure that FERC could pick back up where it left off once the quorum was restored.”
“As chairman, I knew that I faced a daunting task: to lead the agency as we worked our way through the enormous backlog that had accrued since February while tackling new issues that arose as well…After meeting the hard working professionals working here at FERC, I felt confident that we could take on whatever was thrown our way.”
Just weeks into Chatterjee’s chairmanship, the Department of Energy (DOE) submitted to FERC a notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) to implement reforms on the reliability and resiliency of the electricity grid — changes that would benefit nuclear and coal at the expense of natural gas.
“This will be, I believe, the most significant issue we will face during my time on the Commission,” Chatterjee said Thursday. “It’s an important matter, and one that has sparked critical conversations about our nation’s fuel mix and resilience, and I have every confidence that we will meet our statutory obligation to take final action by the Dec. 11 deadline.”
Other highlights of his brief time as chairman included issuing a hydropower licensing policy, and approving more than 8,000 Bcf/d of pipeline capacity.
“These critical pipelines included some applicants, like the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines, that had been waiting up to 18 months to receive a certificate,” he said.
The tone of Chatterjee’s remarks hinted that the delayed swearing in of Kevin McIntyre and Richard Glick, whose nominations were confirmed by the Senate Nov. 2, may be imminent. In adjourning the meeting, he said it would be “the last time I will wield this gavel.”
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 next June 30, 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, is to serve the remainder of a five-year term expiring June 30, 2022.
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