Murkowski, gas groups express concerns over a depleted FERC

US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) and two national natural gas trade associations separately expressed their concerns over the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s no longer having enough members for a quorum once Chairman Norman Bay leaves on Feb. 3.

“FERC will need a full complement of commissioners as soon as possible so that it can tackle the important work on its busy docket,” Murkowski said on Jan. 27. “The Senate’s challenge will be to promptly consider, without undue delay, FERC nominations once they are received.”

Bay was appointed a FERC commissioner on Aug. 4, 2014, and was named chairman from Apr. 15, 2015. His appointment to the commission was through June 30, 2018.

“FERC is a gem of an agency, and its work touches the life of every single American, 24/7, 365 days out of the year,” he said in his Jan. 26 resignation letter to President Donald J. Trump. “You and my successors at FERC have my best wishes as you build on the progress we have achieved to date and work to address the energy challenges of the future.”

Bay’s departure will leave FERC with just two commissioners, acting Chairman Cheryl A. LaFleur and Commissioner Colette Honorable, where three are needed for the independent agency to establish a quorum, Murkowski noted. “I will make it a top priority to work with President Trump and my colleagues to move nominees rapidly and to re-establish a working quorum on the commission,” Murkowski said.

Interstate Natural Gas of American President Donald F. Santa and Natural Gas Supply Association Pres. Dena Wiggins each sent letters to Trump on Jan. 27 asking him to nominate new FERC commissioners as soon as possible.

“Given your focus on infrastructure and domestic energy resources, we urge you to nominate candidates to fill the commission’s three existing vacancies as quickly as possible,” Santa told the president. “It is important to note that these gas pipeline systems are financed with private capital.” Getting the necessary permits and approvals for such projects is the most significant barrier to getting them built, not a lack of financial resources, he explained.

Functioning FERC essential

“We must have a functioning FERC to move forward with building this critical energy infrastructure,” he said. INGAA will work with the administration to find qualified nominees, including one with a background in gas and pipeline matters, he added.

Wiggins said in her letter that US gas producers and marketers applaud Trump’s commitment to remove unnecessary infrastructure project barriers, as outlined in a Jan. 24 executive order, as an encouraging sign that the nation will be able to take full advantage of its own abundant gas resources (OGJ Online, Jan. 27, 2017).

“In order to continue this American renaissance, it’s imperative that [FERC] have the quorum necessary to act on gas infrastructure projects,” she continued. “We urge the White House to move expeditiously to nominate candidates to re-establish a quorum and fill vacant seats at the commission.”

Acting FERC Chairman LaFleur said on Jan. 27 that the commission is working to get as many orders issued as possible in the time it still has a quorum. She expressed confidence that with FERC’s strong team, the commission can continue to do important work.

“We are evaluating how best to do the business of the commission after Commissioner Bay’s departure. We have already confirmed that all existing staff delegations will continue,” said LaFleur, adding that a podcast with more details would be issued on Jan. 30 with additional details to follow.

“That said, nominations for the three openings at the commission would be very welcome, and I look forward to the day when we have a full, five-member commission again,” LaFleur said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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