While the Trump administration has been glacially slow in filling second-tier jobs at federal energy agencies, his nominees to date ring few warning bells among those who have followed appointments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Department of Energy.
At FERC, which is far more important to the on-the-ground, day-to-day operations of federal government energy policy, the commission remains largely crippled, only acting-chair Cheryl LaFleur serving on the five-member commission. While the White House was very slow to nominate commissioners to fill out the FERC and provide a quorum for taking major actions, the administration came through with two Republican nominees – Neil Chatterjee from Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky’s staff and Robert Powelson, a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and current chairman of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. They quickly won support from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and are poised for Senate floor action.
But the health care legislative quicksand sunk the Senate into chaotic turmoil and the nominations are languishing and, most likely, won’t be resolved until the fall.
The White House then nominated prominent Democrat and highly-regarded energy maven Rich Glick to the vacant Democratic seat that came available when Colette Honorable’s term expired at the end of June. Glick was the minority council on the Senate Energy Committee, with decades of experience in Congress and the private sector. His nomination is not scheduled for committee review before the upcoming August recess, but there is no indication that he won’t win easy committee approval.
On July 14, Trump nominated well-respected Washington energy lawyer Kevin McIntyre to the third open Republican seat on the commission and said he would name McIntyre chairman. McIntyre is co-head of the global energy practice at the law firm of Jones Day, where he has represented clients across the energy landscape, and is co-author of The Electric Power Purchasing Handbook ((Executive Enterprises, 1st and 2d eds., 1989, 1993). His nomination is also pending at the Senate committee and is expected to win easy approval.
At DOE, where Trump has also been slow in making nominations to subcabinet jobs, the White House this week nominated Mark Meneses, a vice president at Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy and long-time D.C. energy lobbyist, to be DOE undersecretary. Trump also nominated Paul Dabbar, a mergers and acquisitions maven for Wall Street’s J.P. Morgan firm, as undersecretary for science.
Only the Dabbar nomination is likely to cause any sparks, as his sole connection to energy appears to be a position on the agency’s environmental management board. Supporters tout his business experience as useful in guiding the agency’s science agenda.
Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, has said she wants to move the DOE nominations quickly, hoping to get them confirmed before the upcoming August recess. Given the current procedural turmoil in the Senate, that may be a difficult trick.