It has been two years since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) enjoyed its full complement of five commissioners to deliberate and decide some of the most pressing energy issues facing our nation. Luckily, the long wait for a full FERC is nearly over.
On Thursday, the United States Senate confirmed Kevin McIntyre and Richard Glick to fill the last two open seats on FERC. Within the next week, it is expected that they will be sworn in and assume their roles as the nation’s top energy regulators. Then, a fully staffed and highly qualified FERC will be ready to tackle its diverse and increasingly high-profile workload.
And what a workload it is. Not only is the FERC still digging out from the backlog of cases that piled up during its lack of a quorum from February through August of this year, but a couple more high-profile matters may be headed its way soon.
Luckily for businesses and consumers, these two new commissioners are eminently qualified to hit the ground running. Mr. McIntyre, who is President Trump’s pick to lead the FERC, co-led the energy practice of a major international law firm and has dedicated decades of his life to both energy issues and probono causes, making him a highly qualified but eminently humble choice to lead the FERC.
Mr. Glick’s background includes positions with the Department of Energy, as Democratic General Counsel for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and within the energy industry. Commissioner Glick will be a quick study on the issues before him, and has proven himself as a thoughtful and reasoned decision-maker.
Both men will have plenty to do in their job.
Battles over infrastructure siting have continued, with the FERC and New York State heading into a dispute over the construction of the Valley Lateral Pipeline. The FERC also plays a lead role in securing our nation’s energy infrastructure from a nefarious cyberattack – arguably the number one issue that keeps utility company CEOs up at night. The siting of liquefied natural gas export facilities continues to be a hot topic as America’s geopolitical energy force continues to rise, and the ongoing, everyday role FERC plays as traffic cop for the nation’s energy markets is no small task, either.
But perhaps the greatest challenge facing the fully-stocked five-member commission came in the form of a letter from Department of Energy Secretary Perry that arrived at FERC on September 28. That letter asked FERC to address promptly the pressures that have been leading to the premature retirement of both coal-fired and nuclear-powered electric generation facilities in certain organized regional power markets. While FERC has been evaluating similar issues for years, the loss of a quorum earlier this year combined with the sheer complexity of the nation’s power markets have delayed an ultimate solution. Now, Secretary Perry seeks quick action in this area, and FERC now has the herculean task of potentially modifying, while not unduly distorting, the power markets upon which decades of FERC precedent is based.
This effort attracted over 500 comments to the Commission last week, and lawyers all around the nation are working overtime to synthesize and reply to those comments by the November 7 deadline for reply comment submittals. At that point, the table will be set and the future of the nation’s electric power markets will be fully on FERC’s plate.
One of their first tests might be one of the greatest of their just commencing tenure at FERC, but everyone can be confident that Chairman-designate McIntyre and Commissioner Glick will be up to the task.