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US Senate awaiting paperwork on FERC nominees

17 May 2017 17:55 (+01:00 GMT)
US Senate awaiting paperwork on FERC nominees

Washington, 17 May (Argus) — The confirmation process for two nominees to the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is being held up by incomplete paperwork, further delaying the agency's ability to issue major decisions.

US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today said she would not schedule a confirmation hearing until she and the committee's ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) had all of the nominee paperwork. President Donald Trump last week nominated Neal Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to fill Republican vacancies at FERC.

"We have gotten most of it for Mr. Chatterjee and Powelson, but we do not have all of it," Murkowski said today. "So once we have all of it, we will schedule them up."

FERC since February has been one member short of three-member quorum needed to authorize construction of natural gas pipelines, approve LNG export facilities, overhaul oil and natural gas pipeline tariffs, or approve market rule for the electric grid. Even if Murkowski schedules a confirmation hearing soon, it could take weeks or months before the full Senate votes on the nominees.

The lack of a quorum risks delays for the 1.5 Bcf/d (42mn m3/d) Nexus gas pipeline, which is set to transport Appalachian shale gas into the upper Midwest by the end of 2017. It also could delay FERC action on the 2 Bcf/d Mountain Valley pipeline and the 1.5 Bcf/d Atlantic Coast pipelines, two other shale gas pipelines intended to enter service in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Murkowski said the pace of nominations has been "tortuously slow" and said it was "critical" to fill vacancies across the administration. She predicted there will be bipartisan support for those nominated to FERC. Chatterjee is an energy adviser to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Powelson is a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

"There is a recognition that FERC has been effectively neutered here since February because they have not had a quorum, so their ability to act on anything of significance has been very, very limited," Murkowski said at an event hosted by the think tank the American Council for Capital Formation.

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