Saturday, April 21, 2018

Honorable: Leaving FERC, but not Sure When

By Tom Kleckner

CHICAGO — Colette Honorable continues to play it coy when discussing her future.

FERC Commissioner Colette Honorable | © RTO Insider

The FERC commissioner has said she would not seek a second term when her current one expires June 30. What she has not said is whether she will leave on that date or stay on until a replacement is nominated. (See No 2nd Term for FERC’s Colette Honorable.)

Honorable alluded to the uncertainty during a Monday luncheon address to fellow regulators, friends and attendees at the Mid-America Regulatory Conference. It was her only appearance during the conference, but it kept her long MARC attendance streak alive.

“I should have had a T-shirt made up: ‘I haven’t announced when I’m leaving, and I haven’t announced what I’m doing,’” she said.

One thing’s for sure: Honorable will spend at least the next two years in D.C. Call it returning the favor to her 16-year-old daughter, Sydney, who is still in high school.

“She loves it [in D.C.],” Honorable said. “I owe it to her. She was very good when I moved there.”

Honorable was nominated by President Barack Obama in August 2014 to fill the remainder of former Commissioner John Norris’ term. She was unanimously confirmed to the post by the Senate later in the year.

Honorable — who announced her departure in April — and acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur have held down the fort at the quorum-less commission since February, when Chairman Norman Bay resigned.

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner Robert Powelson and Neil Chatterjee, senior energy policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), were only recently nominated to fill two of the three vacancies. Both easily cleared the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, but have yet to be confirmed by the full body. (See FERC Nominees Easily Advance to Full Senate.)

Powelson is president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, a post Honorable once held.

“I’m looking forward to when Rob joins us at FERC, or joins Cheryl,” Honorable said, a sly comment some in the audience missed.

An Arkansas native, Honorable was named to the state’s Public Service Commission in 2007. She chaired the PSC from January 2011 until January 2015, succeeding Paul Suskie, now SPP’s executive vice president of regulatory policy and general counsel, and one of her “work husbands.” (Her real husband died shortly before her FERC nomination.)

Acknowledging “uncertain times for regulators,” Honorable had some words of advice for those in her profession.

“We absolutely must protect our ability to work independently, no matter who is in office,” she said. “I want to urge you to stay true to that. I would have been shocked if the White House called and asked me to vote on something in a certain way. Keeping the lights on, reliably and safely, does not have a political or ideological bent.”

Honorable’s fellow regulators responded with a standing ovation, perhaps her last as a FERC commissioner.

She has no regrets about her decision.

“At the end of the day, I’m proud I kept the consumers first in my work,” she said. “It doesn’t mean I’ve been anti-business. In fact, I was shocked to read an article that described me as pro-business. It just shows I can work pragmatically by bringing together people from both sides of the aisle.”