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May 15, 2017

President Trump Nominates Two To FERC—Why Does It Matter?

President Trump announced late last Monday that he plans to nominate two individuals to be commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC): Neil Chatterjee, who is currently senior energy advisor to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Robert Powelson, who is currently a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. 

Since early February, FERC has been one member short of the quorum of three commissioners needed to approve pipeline, LNG export and electrical transmission projects. With one of the current two commissioners set to retire in June, the two new nominees, if confirmed, will bring FERC back to the minimum of three necessary to act on project approvals. 

Why are these nominations important? 

With more than $12 billion worth of natural gas pipeline projects and tens of thousands of jobs on hold as a result of FERC's inability to act, including the NEXUS project in Ohio and Michigan, the PennEast Pipeline in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia, and the Mountaineer Xpress pipeline in West Virginia, this move holds the potential to unleash new energy investment. (According to Bloomberg, the languishing investment could total up to $50 billion.) 

 The U.S. Senate must confirm the nominations, but before senators can vote, the proposed commissioners must first clear the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) previously said she would clear the committee's calendar for hearings as soon as possible after the nominees are formally sent to the Senate. 

The Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance (EEIA), of which the Metals Service Center Institute is a member, worked vigorously to urge the Trump administration to submit the nominations as soon as possible. EEIA’s efforts included submitting several letters to President Donald Trump and making private contacts with senior Administration officials. The challenge now is to help move these nominees through the Senate confirmation process on an expedited basis. This will also be a heavy lift given the Senate's crowded calendar, including health care and a large backlog of other senior judicial and administrative appointments requiring confirmation. 

EEIA and MSCI will keep its members informed as these nominations proceed.