With Quorum Restored, FERC Can Get to Work on Infrastructure

With Quorum Restored, FERC Can Get to Work on Infrastructure
Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP

In a Washington awash with political division, members of Congress recently demonstrated they can still muster common ground on issues that matter. This month the U.S. Senate approved two of President Trump’s appointees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), restoring quorum after a six-month hiatus caused by leadership vacancies.

The confirmation of Neil Chatterjee — a former advisor to Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — and Robert Powelson — previously a Pennsylvania utilities regulator — is a win for the American public and the U.S. economy. They joined Cheryl LaFleur earlier this month to restore a quorum at the five-member, bipartisan board of Commissioners. FERC is tasked with overseeing interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity. FERC also approves natural gas pipelines, hydropower projects, and natural gas export facilities, among other duties. The Commission’s functions are critical to responsible development of the energy systems that foster long-term economic growth.

Vacancies on the Commission until recently left FERC below the quorum necessary to conduct business. The agency’s long-term lack of quorum was the first in its nearly 40 years of existence. During that time billions of dollars of projects expected to generate thousands of jobs have piled up, all awaiting the Commission’s consideration. Without question, this circumstance disrupted the regulatory process, delaying important energy projects and putting off major policy decisions that impact our electricity markets.

The White House and Congress deserve credit for recognizing the importance of FERC’s work, putting forward qualified candidates for the job, and carefully considering each appointment based on merit. The deliberation on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue suggests policymakers are moving beyond political dogma to focus on responsible regulation of energy infrastructure. That’s the right thing to do for consumers and businesses that rely on dependable access to affordable energy. It is also the right thing to do for communities and the environment, which are better protected by far-sighted, pragmatic regulation.

As American energy production continues to outpace expectations, it will be all the more critical to have thoughtful, independent leadership in place at agencies like FERC.

It takes only a glance across the country to see the positive results that private investment in critical infrastructure can have for American consumers. When consumers and businesses have access to reliable, affordably priced energy, families win, both through lower out-of-pocket costs and through expanding commerce and better job prospects.

Two other nominees to FERC, Kevin McIntyre and Richard Glick, are awaiting Senate confirmation. While it is good news that FERC is now at a quorum, quick confirmation of McIntyre and Glick will finally put the Commission at its full five members for the first time in nearly two years. The FERC works best when it has its full bipartisan complement of Commissioners.  The Senate should act quickly on the pending nominations.

Tony Clark is former Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

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