FERC Has Quorum as Senate Confirms Two New Members

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) again has a working quorum after the U.S. Senate confirmed Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson as new members August 3. FERC had been without a quorum since February 2017 when Commissioner Norman Bay resigned, and with only one member after Collette Honorable left the agency at the end of June.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, released a statement that said the Senate approved Chatterjee and Powelson by unanimous consent. Murkowski said she has scheduled a hearing for September 7 before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to consider two more nominees, Richard Glick and Kevin McIntyre, for the agency. FERC has long been a five-member agency, and by law requires three commissioners to make up a quorum and have the ability to conduct its full range of business.

Robert Powelson (left) and Neil Chatterjee have been confirmed as the two newest FERC commissioners. Courtesy: FERC

Robert Powelson (left) and Neil Chatterjee have been confirmed as the two newest FERC commissioners. Source: POWER archives

Glick is general counsel for Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. McIntyre is an attorney for Jones Day, an international law firm headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. McIntyre represents companies in cases involving energy markets, and utility and oil and gas pipeline regulations.

“After six months, we have finally restored a working quorum to FERC,” said Murkowski. “Mr. Chatterjee and Mr. Powelson certainly have their work cut out for them, but I’m confident they will work to quickly get this independent agency back on track and tackle the important work that has been deferred.”

Powelson has been serving as a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Chatterjee has been an adviser to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Honorable in April of this year announced her intention to leave the agency at the end of her term; she had publicly sparred with Department of Energy (DOE) head Rick Perry. She was nominated by President Obama in August 2014 and confirmed that December. Bay announced he would leave the agency after Trump named Cheryl LaFleur as acting commissioner of the board in January 2017. Honorable’s departure had left LaFleur as FERC’s only member.

The Senate also confirmed Dan Brouillette to be Deputy Secretary of the DOE. “Mr. Brouillette is well-qualified to be Deputy Secretary of Energy and will be a good second-in-command to oversee programs critical to cybersecurity, energy innovation, and scientific discovery,” said Murkowski in her statement. “His long history of distinguished service to our nation and significant management experience will enable him to be a great leader for the Department.”

Brouillette was confirmed by a 79-17 vote. His confirmation comes one day after several news outlets said President Trump may move Energy Secretary Rick Perry from the DOE to instead lead the Department of Homeland Security. Brouillette has held several senior positions inside the Beltway, including as assistant energy secretary for congressional affairs under President George W. Bush, and as President Gerald Ford’s vice president for domestic policy and chief of staff for the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He also was an energy regulator in Louisiana.

Dena E. Wiggins, CEO and president of the Natural Gas Supply Association, in a statement said “Dan has a wealth of experience in the energy industry and understands the importance of energy to the U.S. economy. We look forward to working with him.”

Brouillette also has served as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill for several energy companies, including Entergy Corp., Allegheny Energy, and Peabody Energy, as well as Ford Motor Co.

-Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine)