Senate approves FERC nominees; one Democrat, one Republican

Senate_in_session

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has approved two more members of the federal commission that oversees the nation's power grid and natural gas pipelines, including President Donald Trump's choice for chairman.

On voice votes Thursday, senators approved Republican Kevin McIntyre to chair the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Democrat Richard Glick to round out the five-member panel. The commission was without a quorum for six months and was unable to make decisions on interstate pipelines and other projects worth billions of dollars.

That changed in August when two GOP commissioners were approved. The panel now has the full five members.

Industry groups hailed the Senate action and urged commissioners to act on long-pending pipeline projects.

"The commission faces critical issues in approving infrastructure for getting natural gas to markets. With a full slate of commissioners, these approvals will be even stronger to withstand opposition from those who fight to keep natural gas in the ground," said Barry Russell, president and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

The commission also must decide on a Trump administration plan to bolster nuclear and coal-fired power plants.

The plan by Energy Secretary Rick Perry would reward nuclear and coal-fired power plants for adding reliability to the nation's power grid. Perry says the plan is needed to help prevent widespread outages such as those caused by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

The plan aims to reverse a steady tide of retirements of coal and nuclear plants, which have lost market share as natural gas and renewable energy flourish.

The proposal has drawn opposition from an unusual coalition of business and environmental groups who say it would interfere in the free market and drive up costs while promoting dirty and dangerous fuels.

Eight former FERC members — including five former chairs — oppose the plan.

FERC is expected to act on the proposal by mid-December.

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