By Peter Key
The Senate on Thursday confirmed Republican Kevin McIntyre and Democrat Richard Glick to FERC, giving the commission a full panel for the first time in two years.
The two were approved on voice votes, putting them in a position to weigh in on Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s controversial proposal to provide price supports to coal and nuclear plants in competitive markets (RM18-1).
McIntyre, the coleader of the global Energy Practice at the law firm Jones Day, will serve out the rest of a term that ends June 2018, and then serve a full term that ends June 2023. Glick, the general counsel for Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will serve a term that ends in June 2022.
The nominations of McIntyre and Glick were approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in September, but their confirmations were blocked last month by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who complained Senate Democrats were blocking several of President Trump’s other nominees. (See Senate Panel Clears McIntyre, Glick for FERC.)
The two were among more than two dozen appointees approved Thursday.
Once they are sworn in, FERC will have its full five members for the first time since October 2015, when Republican Philip Moeller left the commission. FERC was without a quorum between February, when former Chairman Norman Bay resigned, and August, when Republicans Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson joined Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur on the commission. (See FERC Quorum Restored as Powelson, Chatterjee Confirmed.)
Chatterjee welcomed the two in a statement released by FERC. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know Kevin through the confirmation process and am eager to start working with him, and it will be great to reunite with Rich Glick, my former Senate colleague,” he said.
The addition of the two ensures, however, that Chatterjee would need to attract at least two votes for a majority in support of the Department of Energy’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to provide “full recovery” of nuclear and coal plant costs. (See FERC Chair Praises Perry’s ‘Bold Leadership’ on NOPR.)
Chatterjee said at a luncheon Wednesday that the federal government may “cast a lifeline” to coal and nuclear power plants while it conducts a long-term review of the country’s power grid. Chatterjee said he was worried that short-term market pressures would force the owners of coal and nuclear plants to close them and later on the country would realize it needed the power they produced.
Although DOE put no price tag on its proposal, estimates of its cost range into the billions. (See Cost Estimates on DOE NOPR: $300 million to $32 billion.) In a conference call with Kentucky reporters Thursday, Chatterjee acknowledged that the policy could result in higher electric bills for some customers. Additional revenue to keep struggling coal plants running “would come from customers in that region, who need the reliability,” he said, according to the Courier Journal. “It’s in these customers’ interests to keep these plants open.”
Chatterjee, like his former boss, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is from Kentucky.
During his confirmation hearing, McIntyre said, “FERC is not an entity whose role includes choosing fuels for the generation of electricity.” (See McIntyre to Senate: ‘FERC does not Pick Fuels’.)