The resignation of Robert Powelson as a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) takes effect August 4 (see article in ABRA Update of June 29). To date, there has been no announcement from the White House regarding the timing of a nomination to fill the vacancy. This has prompted speculation as to how long FERC might once again be without a full complement of Commissioners. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline were both approved in October with only three sitting Commissioners.
Powelson’s departure leaves the Commission with two Democrats and two Republicans. On some recent votes, the remaining members have been on opposite sides on pipeline issues, with Democrats Richard Glick and Cheryl LaFleur dissenting on approving several recent natural gas pipeline projects over the issue of greenhouse gas emissions considerations and the question of market need.
In an interview last week with E&E News, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, expressed concern that FERC would be deadlocked on several important votes in the future. The interview article further noted that:
The hopes of a speedy Senate confirmation could be complicated for Trump’s new FERC nominee by the looming debate over Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh. Murkowski, a moderate pro-abortion-rights Republican, will be under particular pressure as a potential swing vote. Murkowski said she had not yet talked to anyone in the Trump administration about the open FERC job and declined to say who she thought should get the nod.