Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Holds Hearing to consider FERC Nominees

On September 7, 2017, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (“Committee”) held a hearing to consider the nominations of Kevin McIntyre and Richard Glick—President Trump’s final nominees for FERC. Mr. McIntyre and Mr. Glick, who were joined by two nominees also being considered for Department of Interior positions, fielded questions from Committee members but largely avoided opining on matters currently pending at FERC. Knowing that FERC only just recently reestablished the required quorum to resume regular business (see August 11, 2017 edition of the WER), Committee Chairman Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) stated that she was eager to advance the FERC nominees to the full Senate for confirmation.

Following opening remarks and brief statements from the nominees, the Committee members posed questions to Mr. McIntyre and Mr. Glick touching on issues of pressing interest to the electric utility industry. Several members’ questions addressed the jurisdictional divide between FERC and the states, with Sen. Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Sen. Duckworth (D-IL) in particular asking about the nominees’ positions on state control over solar policies and nuclear subsidy policies in the form of Zero Emission Credits (“ZECs”). Both Mr. Glick and Mr. McIntyre voiced support for respecting states’ traditional control over their resource mix. In his answer to a two-part question from Sen. Duckworth on renewable portfolio standards (“RPSs”) and ZECs, Mr. McIntyre simply responded resolutely that states have an “absolute right to implement” RPSs, without mentioning ZECs—a controversial legal issue currently being considered by the Second and Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeals. (See July 25, 2017 and July 31, 2017 editions of the WER).

Committee members also peppered the nominees with questions about compensating generators for certain non-energy-related benefits, including reliability and environmental benefits. Sen. Barrasso (R-WY) sought the nominees’ positions on valuing the reliability benefits of baseload coal plants, while Sen. Franken (D-MN) raised the same question regarding energy storage resources. Both Mr. McIntyre and Mr. Glick reiterated that they envisioned FERC’s role as ensuring market stability and not “choosing fuels,” with Mr. Glick going further to add that the Department of Energy has not reported adverse reliability impacts from the latest retirements of coal and nuclear facilities.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. McIntyre and Mr. Glick will join current FERC Commissioners Cheryl A. LaFleur, Robert F. Powelson, and Chairman Neil Chatterjee to complete the five-member roster at the Commission. Upon confirmation, Mr. McIntyre will become the new Chairman.

Archived video and witness testimony from the hearing are available on the Committee’s website.

This article first appeared on the Washington Energy Report, hosted by Troutman Sanders LLP.

 

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