White House moves to address FERC vacancies — sources

By Hannah Northey | 03/01/2017 07:00 AM EST

This story was updated.

The White House may be on its way to filling vacancies on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and addressing mounting fears over the agency’s lack of a quorum, said multiple sources.

While details remain sparse, sources said the Trump administration has reached out to two Hill staffers: Neil Chatterjee, a longtime energy aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Patrick McCormick, chief counsel for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.


Also potentially under consideration, sources said, was Robert Powelson, a Pennsylvania regulator who is serving this year as president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, and Ellen Nowak, chairwoman of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.

One source said the White House is only considering those candidates for two open Republican commissioner seats and that the president’s team is continuing its search for the agency’s next chairman.

Yet another source suggested the new chairman could be "surprising." However, one said the White House was not close to finishing its search for the vacancies.

Reportedly handling FERC issues within the Trump administration is Mike Catanzaro, a former lobbyist at CGCN Group who started last week as special assistant to the president for energy and environmental policy in the White House National Economic Council.

Neither the White House nor any of the candidates contacted immediately responded to a request for comment. Sources spoke with E&E News on condition of anonymity.

The Trump administration has been under increasing pressure to nominate a Republican chairman and two commissioners ever since the five-member panel was left with only two working members. That situation unfolded after the agency’s former Democratic chairman, Norman Bay, abruptly resigned (Greenwire, Feb. 2).

More than 90 House members and a number of senators — as well as multiple energy, chemical and manufacturing trade groups — have warned of a crippling situation for FERC that could freeze pipeline, hydropower and other energy infrastructure projects.

In recent weeks, President Trump tapped Democrat Cheryl LaFleur to serve as acting chairwoman. Another Democrat, Colette Honorable, is the only other serving FERC commissioner.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the Republican chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said during an interview on Capitol Hill yesterday that she has been pushing for FERC to be fully staffed.

Murkowski also said she had submitted names for consideration and believed the administration, although "drinking from a fire hose," with many nominees to process, was aware of FERC’s precarious position.

Murkowski has signaled a willingness to move two nominees in tandem through her committee for approval as a way to speed up the deliberations.

Reporter Geof Koss contributed.