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FERC nominees offer support to LNG, pipelines

25 May 2017 17:40 (+01:00 GMT)
FERC nominees offer support to LNG, pipelines

Washington, 25 May (Argus) — Two Republicans nominated to fill vacancies at the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) told lawmakers they would prioritize completing reviews of natural gas pipelines and LNG export projects.

The US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today held a confirmation hearing for Robert Powelson and Neal Chatterjee to become commissioners at FERC. Those positions have taken on more importance because FERC since February has been one short of a three-member quorum needed to approve natural gas pipelines, overhaul oil pipeline tariffs and make other substantive decisions.

"We need to have a fully functioning commission," committee chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said.

President Donald Trump has nominated Powelson, a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, to a term expiring in June 2020. Powelson said if confirmed he would work to root out "snags" delaying approval of natural gas pipelines. He also spoke favorably about LNG exports, which he said create "geopolitical upside" for the US, and keeping nuclear generators competitive to preserve their climate benefits.

"We want those units to run," Powelson said, although he said state programs focused on nuclear generators should not impede functioning of power markets.

Chatterjee, who now serves as an energy adviser to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), has been nominated to a term expiring in June 2021. Chatterjee said reviewing LNG projects was an "important part of FERC's role" and promised to hear from all sides on the issue. He said he wanted to make sure efforts to reduce power sector CO2 emissions did not threaten reliability of the electric grid.

The confirmation hearing also included Trump's nomination of Dan Brouillette to become the US Energy Department's deputy secretary. Republicans and Democrats spent most of their time at the hearing criticizing budget cuts proposed by the White House that would gut renewable energy and efficiency programs. Brouillette said he would work with Congress to address their concerns.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) said he would fight "any attempts" to close down renewable energy laboratories. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) raised concerns about Trump's plans to eliminate a program that has promised up to $2bn for the Lake Charles Methanol project, which would convert petroleum coke to methanol, while using captured CO2 for enhanced oil recovery. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) said he was "deeply concerned" about cuts to renewable energy.