The highest lawyer on the Federal Vitality Regulatory Fee and an vitality adviser for Home Democrats are among the many candidates within the working for an open seat at FERC, in line with a number of folks aware of the method.
Matthew Christiansen, who’s normal counsel at FERC and beforehand served as authorized adviser to former Chair Richard Glick, is into consideration for the vacant spot on the fee.
Rick Kessler, a senior Democratic adviser for the Home Vitality and Commerce Committee, can be into consideration or could also be eyeing the job, stated sources who requested to not be named as a result of the nomination course of continues to be ongoing.
FERC oversees main features of the electrical and pure gasoline industries, together with the nation’s wholesale energy markets and the reliability of the grid. The company is anticipated to finalize new guidelines this yr that might affect the tempo of the transition to carbon-free vitality and the buildout of the facility system.
It’s unclear when the White Home will nominate somebody new to hitch the unbiased, five-seat fee, or what number of people are being vetted for the job. FERC at present has two Republican members and two Democrats, together with appearing Chair Willie Phillips.
“It nonetheless seems like we’re early within the course of,” stated Larry Gasteiger, govt director of the Wires Group, a commerce affiliation that promotes high-voltage transmission strains.
Whoever is nominated may very well be chosen particularly to function the everlasting chair. In an announcement earlier this month, a White Home official stated Phillips would maintain the job of chair “till we’re capable of nominate and make sure a everlasting chair.”
A spokesperson for the White Home couldn’t instantly be reached for remark Friday afternoon relating to the standing of the method or who’s into consideration.
A nominee from President Joe Biden to be FERC chair would possibly face a better bar within the Senate in the course of the affirmation course of in comparison with one for an everyday commissioner spot, FERC watchers famous.
Glick was nominated final yr to serve a second time period as chair of the fee. However his nomination was successfully blocked by the chair of the Senate Vitality and Pure Assets Committee, Sen. Joe Manchin.
A spokesperson for the West Virginia Democrat stated in November that the senator was “not snug” holding a listening to for him. Glick left FERC when the final Congress adjourned, and Phillips turned the fee’s appearing chair on Jan. 3.
Manchin’s workplace couldn’t instantly be reached Monday for touch upon potential FERC candidates.
“It’s onerous to search out somebody that the administration — with their worldview and political obligations — desires however that Sen. Manchin would additionally log off on,” stated Ted Thomas, the previous Republican-appointed chair of the Arkansas Public Service Fee who now runs an unbiased consulting agency.
Previous to beginning work at FERC in 2016, Christiansen — thought-about a detailed ally of Glick’s — held stints as a regulation clerk on the U.S. Court docket of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the U.S. District Court docket for the Southern District of New York.
In a Twitter message Friday, Christiansen declined to touch upon the prospect of being into consideration for the job of commissioner or chair.
If nominated, he can be the second FERC normal counsel lately to hitch the fee. Commissioner James Danly, a Republican, beforehand served as normal counsel earlier than turning into a commissioner in 2020 (E&E Information PM, March 12, 2020).
“I haven’t talked to [Christiansen] about it, however I don’t doubt he’d need it. He’s an formidable man,” stated one former FERC staffer with information of the nomination course of.
A ‘parlor recreation’
There would even be precedent for choosing a congressional staffer for a FERC job if Kessler have been nominated. Glick was normal counsel for Democrats on the Senate Vitality and Pure Assets Committee earlier than he was tapped by former President Donald Trump to hitch FERC in 2017.
Kessler is “a reputation I’ve heard greater than as soon as,” stated Colette Honorable, a companion at Reed Smith LLP who served as a Democratic FERC commissioner from 2015 to 2017. “I do know him properly. And I’ve plenty of respect for him. He is aware of the sector. He’s very educated. And I really like that he has that legislative expertise as a result of that might bode properly.”
“It’s clear that FERC may gain advantage with improved relations with Congress,” Honorable added.
Kessler joined the Home Vitality and Commerce Committee in 2015. He beforehand spent roughly eight years working in public relations, in line with his LinkedIn profile, and was additionally chief of workers for former Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.).
A spokesperson for Democrats on Home committee couldn’t be reached for remark Friday on whether or not Kessler is within the job.
Some within the vitality business have stated the White Home ought to appoint Philips because the everlasting chair. Having beforehand served as chair of the District of Columbia’s Public Service Fee, Phillips joined FERC in December 2021 and has publicly vowed to prioritize working along with his Democratic and Republican friends on the fee (Energywire, Jan. 6).
“He definitely ought to have been named chair outright,” Honorable stated. “He definitely got here to FERC with a greater understanding of a number of the bigger, nationwide points round reliability and resilience. And that’s an space the place we definitely can’t let up in our work.”
One problem with choosing a brand new FERC commissioner is discovering somebody with out substantial conflicts of curiosity throughout the utility and vitality areas regulated by the fee, stated Rob Gramlich, president of Grid Methods LLC and a former financial adviser at FERC.
People with intensive involvement in fee proceedings by means of their present positions — together with state utility regulators — sometimes have to recuse themselves from selections involving these issues for his or her first yr at FERC.
“I feel I’m most likely considered one of many individuals who’d be recused from voting on key orders by advantage of being concerned in a number of the proceedings, so subsequently, I’m not ,” Gramlich stated. “I feel there’s plenty of nice candidates on the market who fall in that class.”
Danly’s time period at FERC, in the meantime, ends in June. It’s potential that the White Home might nominate each a Democratic chair and Republican commissioner to exchange Danly. Doing so might assist easy out the affirmation course of earlier than the Senate, stated Gasteiger of the Wires Group.
Nonetheless, the timing of potential nominations for FERC stays up within the air.
“That is going to be a parlor recreation till we get a reputation” from the White Home, stated an vitality lobbyist aware of the method.