FERC is set to return to a full complement of five commissioners following a Senate voice vote late Monday to confirm the nominations of Republican Mark Christie and Democrat Allison Clements.
Christie, who’s been serving as chairman of the Virginia State Corporation Commission, was confirmed to a term that ends in 2025. Clements, a policy consultant for The Energy Foundation, was confirmed to a term that ends in 2024.
Clements and Christie were nominated by President Trump earlier this year to fill the empty seats.
While there had been some doubt as to whether the current Senate would have time to act on the FERC nominations, it took slightly more than a week for lawmakers to confirm Trump’s picks once they advanced out of committee. Christie and Clements were reported favorably to the full Senate by the Energy and Natural Resources committee last month. The nominees appeared before the committee in September.
Christie and Clements will join FERC as the Biden administration moves into the White House, foreshadowing further changes in the agency’s leadership in 2021. FERC, currently made up of three Republicans and two Democrats, has traditionally been steered by a three-to-two majority favoring the current president’s political party.
“We continue to expect that incoming President Joe Biden would pass the gavel to either Commissioner Rich Glick or Clements shortly after the inauguration,” analysts at ClearView Energy Partners LLC said.
ClearView analysts said it was “customary but not required that a chairman appointed by an outgoing administration” resign “to allow a new president to fill the seat and change the majority on the five-member Commission.”
FERC Chairman James Danly, a Republican, said Monday he was “delighted that our two new colleagues have been confirmed and I look forward to working with them.”
Republican Commissioner Neil Chatterjee took to Twitter to congratulate Christie and Clements. He had served as chairman until a recent shakeup at the agency following action on carbon pricing that seemed to draw the disapproval of the Trump administration.
“Looking forward to working with both of you!” Chatterjee wrote.
Commissioner Richard Glick, a Democrat, also congratulated his new colleagues via Twitter, adding that he is “excited we are finally back to a full five-member FERC!”
Following the confirmations, FERC is back to the full five members for the first time in nearly two years.
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FERC has seemingly been short-handed more often than not in recent years, including a stretch in 2017 when the agency lacked a quorum needed to vote on pipeline certificate orders, among other business. The agency also mourned the untimely passing of former Chairman Kevin McIntyre in early 2019.
In recent months, FERC has been operating with three commissioners following the departure of Bernard L. McNamee earlier this year.
Industry trade groups including the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) cheered the Senate’s confirmation of FERC’s newest members.
“The Commission’s work reviewing and permitting interstate infrastructure projects is more important than ever while we try to get Americans back to work, since these projects will bring investment dollars and jobs to every corner of the country,” API Director of Natural Gas Markets Dustin Meyer said. “We look forward to working with Commissioners Clements and Christie on modernizing our country’s energy infrastructure.”
INGAA CEO Amy Andryszak said FERC “plays a critical role in reviewing the energy infrastructure projects that provide Americans with safe and secure access to natural gas, delivering environmental benefits to our nation and affordable, reliable energy to consumers.
“We are pleased that FERC will now have a full complement of commissioners to undertake its important work on behalf of millions of Americans who depend on natural gas every day.”
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