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FERC set for leadership change after vote

2 Nov 2017, 9.43 pm GMT

FERC set for leadership change after vote

Washington, 2 November (Argus) — The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is poised for another leadership shakeup just a month before it votes on a "grid resiliency" plan that critics say would bail out struggling coal and nuclear plants.

The Senate today by voice vote confirmed Republican energy attorney Kevin McIntyre and Democratic congressional aide Richard Glick to become FERC members. McIntyre will become FERC chairman after he is sworn in and replace Neil Chatterjee, who has been temporarily leading the agency since his confirmation on 10 August.

The change in FERC's leadership could be consequential as the agency prepares to vote by 11 December on a controversial grid resiliency proposal introduced by US energy secretary Rick Perry. That proposal asks FERC to set market rules so that power plants with 90 days of on-site fuel could fully recover their operating costs and earn a profit.

This requirement would almost exclusively benefit coal and nuclear plants, to the detriment of natural gas and renewables. The proposal's purpose is "rebalancing the market if you will because the last administration clearly had their thumb on the scale for renewables," Perry said today an event hosted by NBC News and the media company Axios.

Chatterjee has indicated he does not want to "blow up" power markets as FERC considers the proposal, which is something that critics say would happen if the proposal was adopted today. But Chatterjee has also indicated he is comfortable with the idea of offering a lifeline to coal and nuclear plants he says provide particular value to the grid's resiliency.

McIntyre at his confirmation hearing said the agency should not be in the role of "choosing fuels" in the power sector, and has appeared more reluctant toward the concept of proposals intended to support coal over other resources.

Chatterjee said he was looking forward to working with McIntyre and Glick, who he said would bring "years of experience and knowledge" to the agency as it faces complicated issues.

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