Yesterday morning the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing to consider the nominations of Robert Powelson and Neil Chatterjee to serve as Commissioners of FERC. Mr. Powelson is currently a Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner and president of NARUC, and Mr. Chatterjee is an energy policy advisor to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.
At the hearing, the majority of the questions from the committee focused on clean energy, the continuing use of nuclear as baseload generation, and states’ rights. Other topics explored by the Committee included the backlog of cases at FERC, pipeline safety, and infrastructure development. The nominees also stated that they would consider supporting a review of PURPA to consider what parts of the regulation are no longer working, but that those changes needed to be done by Congress as part of a potential energy bill.
During the hearing, Mr. Powelson indicated that he thinks the backlog of cases at FERC is FERC’s biggest issue, followed by cyber and physical security, infrastructure investment, and market issues. When asked for his vision of the future grid, Mr. Chatterjee responded that he is in favor of markets, competition and technology when it is in the best interests of consumers. He noted that the Commission plays a critical role in the development of infrastructure and permitting, and that the Commission needs to examine whether infrastructure is prepared to deal with renewables entering the marketplace.
Following the hearing, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski issued a statement announcing her support for the nominees and encouraging the Senate to confirm them quickly.