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Trump taps Senate Democratic staffer for FERC

29 Jun 2017 15:20 (+01:00 GMT)
Trump taps Senate Democratic staffer for FERC

Washington, 29 June (Argus) — President Donald Trump plans to nominate Richard Glick, general counsel for the Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Glick is the third person, and the first Democrat, nominated by Trump to join the commission overseeing the US natural gas and electricity infrastructure. But the five-member commission will have only one serving member left — acting chairman Cheryl LaFleur — after 1 July. FERC needs a three-member quorum to approve construction of natural gas pipelines and LNG export facilities.

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, a natural gas pipeline industry group, estimates that the vacancies at the commission is holding back $14bn worth of investment in pipeline projects and LNG export terminals, as companies await FERC permit decisions.

Glick is a lawyer by training and served as a senior US government affairs executive for energy companies Iberdrola, PPM Energy and PacifiCorps prior to joining the Senate committee staff in 2016. Glick was a senior policy adviser to then secretary of energy Bill Richardson in 1998-2001. Glick is nominated for a five-year term ending in June 2022.

The president nominates members of FERC and the Senate has to approve the nominees. FERC can have no more than three members representing the president's party.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee earlier this month voted to approve the FERC nominations of Neil Chatterjee, an energy adviser to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), and Robert Powelson, a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Both are Republicans. No Senate vote is scheduled at present.

FERC lost the three-member quorum needed for major decisions affecting pipelines and the electric sector on 3 February, when the agency's former chairman Norman Bay resigned. Since that time, FERC has had only two Democratic members — Colette Honorable and acting chairman Cheryl LaFleur. Honorable is stepping down tomorrow.

Honorable's departure "again underscores the urgent need to re-establish a quorum at FERC," Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said yesterday.

Murkowski said she would push for a quick confirmation vote for Chatterjee and Powelson and asked her Democratic colleagues to enable a floor vote.

FERC nominations have become increasingly controversial in recent years, as environmental activists have taken a growing interest in targeting midstream infrastructure as a way of limiting natural gas development and hydraulic fracturing. But the Republican nominees faced relatively few questions during their confirmation hearings at the Senate committee.

FERC since early February has been holding technical hearings, making small tariff adjustments and preparing larger decisions for votes once a quorum is restored.

The current US administration is taking longer than its predecessors to select and formally nominate candidates to fill executive branch vacancies.

"We respect Glick's depth of experience and subject matter

expertise, and urge the president to follow up soon with a formal nomination," Interstate Natural Gas Association of America president Don Santa said today. "It is our hope that nominating Glick for the soon-to-be-open Democratic seat will facilitate a bipartisan agreement in the Senate on restoring a quorum at FERC."

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