by Itunuoluwa Adebo
President Donald Trump plans to nominate a Pennsylvania utility regulator and a top Senate staffer to fill two of the three commissioner vacancies at the agency that oversees the nation’s electricity and natural gas systems.
Trump announced that Robert Powelson, a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, and Neil Chatterjee, a senior energy policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), would be his first two picks to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
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With only two sitting commissioners, the agency has lacked a quorum since Norman Bay, FERC’s former chairman, left the agency in early February. A fourth seat will soon be opening. Late last month, one of the two remaining FERC commissioners, Colette Honorable, said she did not plan to go for a second term on the commission. Her current term ends June 30, but federal rules allow her to stay on until Congress adjourns at the end of year if no replacement is seated before then.
Powelson sparked a controversy, March when he said people opposing pipeline projects are engaged in a “jihad” to keep natural gas from reaching new markets. A strong supporter of natural gas production in his home state explained that he used the word “jihad” to describe the actions of individuals engaged in disruptive behaviour. “In retrospect, that was an inappropriate choice of words,” he said in a statement to State Impact Pennyslvania.
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Neither nominee will serve a full five-year term. Trump intends to nominate Powelson to a term that expires June 30, 2020, and Chatterjee to a term that ends June 30, 2021.
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