FERC has canceled its Feb. 16 agenda meeting and suspended subsequent monthly meetings as the agency awaits appointment of enough commissioners to achieve a quorum.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “will continue to hold previously scheduled meetings and events sponsored by FERC, including the joint meeting between FERC and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Feb. 23, 2017, and the upcoming Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 workshop on March 30, 2017,” according to a statement released by Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur and Commissioner Colette Honorable. “FERC also will continue to announce and schedule future meetings, technical conferences and workshops as appropriate.”
But major decisions requiring the votes of commissioners are on hold indefinitely as FERC awaits the appointments of at least one more member.
The logjam began last month, when President Trump named LaFleur acting chairman and Norman Bay, who had been at the helm since April 2015 — when he replaced LaFleur in that roll — submitted his resignation effective Feb. 3.
Without a quorum, FERC can conduct routine business, but it cannot vote on important projects or rules. Trump has yet to nominate any new commissioners to fill the three vacant seats on the ostensibly five-member panel. Currently, the only commissioners are LaFleur and Honorable, both Democrats. FERC can have no more than three commissioners from any one party. Industry groups have been lobbying the Trump Administration to act quickly on FERC nominations, which would have to go through the sometimes lengthy Senate confirmation process before taking their seats at the agency.
Among those rumored to be potential FERC nominees is Neil Chatterjee, a senior policy advisor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY),Travis Kavulla, a member of the Montana Public Service Commission and former president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, and Janet Sena, director of public policy and external affairs for the North American Electric Reliability Corp.
In addition to the three empty seats waiting to be filled, Honorable will need to have her term extended or be replaced this year, since her term expires June 30. LaFleur’s term is due to expire June 30, 2019.
In anticipation of Bay’s departure, FERC buckled down and issued a rapid-fire series of Natural Gas Act (NGA) certification orders late last week. Other pending NGA certificate applications could be delayed by FERC’s quorumless stretch.
FERC headquarters resumed normal operations Thursday morning, one day after burst water pipes and the resulting need to repair and dry out information technology systems forced the building to close and a temporary halt to the acceptance of hardcopy and electronic format submittals.
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