FERC Nominees Breeze Through Senate Committee Hearing

senate

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a two-hour hearing today to review the nominations of Democrat seat appointee Richard Glick and Republican seat appointee and prospective Chairman Kevin McIntyre to be members of the FERC.  The Committee also reviewed the nominations of Joseph Balash to be Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management and Ryan Nelson to be Solicitor of the Department of the Interior.  If you have the time and the inclination, the hearing is archived here.

Each nominee began with a prepared opening statement.  Mr. Glick noted his prior experience on the Hill, working for Senator Cantwell and previously for Senator Bumpers in the 1990s.  He also highlighted is broad experience in the industry, including representation ranging from public power entities and state regulators while in private practice to serving as in-house counsel to utilities such as PacifiCorp and Avangrid.  Mr. McIntyre highlighted his 30-year career which included substantial practice before FERC on behalf of a wide swath of energy industry participants and his “rule of law” approach to reasoned decision making that would be applied if confirmed as a Commissioner.

The questions from both Republicans and Democrats were handled very well by both nominees, with each expressing expert understanding of the primary jurisdiction of FERC, pending rulemakings and matters before the agency, significant policy considerations and challenges to grid reliability, resource integration, and state law issues like renewable portfolio standards.  A few recurring themes appeared that I would note:

  • The recently released DOE Staff Report surfaced in questions by several Senators, including questions about the ability for FERC to express a fuel source preference.  Mr. McIntyre asserted that FERC does not pick fuels, that it should be open to the science, and that reliability and economics also play a key role in FERC’s role in market design and operation. Mr. Glick provided complimentary responses, noting that the Staff Report indicated that the significant loss of baseload generating resources hasn’t impaired reliability to date, but is something that FERC needs to keep its eye on.
  • Both nominees noted the ongoing price formation and transparency and energy storage initiatives that are already underway.  While not expressing opinions on how they would vote on the matters currently before FERC, both indicated that these policy initiatives were important and (in my view) signaled they would be continued under the new Commission.
  • Both nominees acknowledged state’s rights in the context of the right to establish renewable portfolio standards, dealing with state specific issues like nuclear generation, and in infrastructure siting determinations.  Mr. Glick cited to the recent Hughes Supreme Court decision, and Mr. McIntyre provided a complementary follow up response, consistent with his “rule of law” comment provided in his opening remarks.

All in all, there were no gotcha moments and no zingers from either the dais or the nominees.   The two nominees expressed great poise and knowledge to every question thrown their way, and neither expressed what I would consider to be extreme positions in relation to criticisms lodged against other administration appointees to the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, or other agencies that impact the energy business.

Chairwoman Murkowski indicated at the end of the hearing that it was her desire to move to a vote quickly, and told Messrs. Glick and McIntyre “we can’t get you there fast enough.”  Let’s hope that is true and it takes less than the time it took for the confirmation of Messrs. Chatterjee and Powelson. 

 

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