For more than two months, our five organizations have worked tirelessly – both in concert and individually – to urge the Trump Administration and Congress to re-establish a quorum of at least three commissioners at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). None of us expected to have to continue these efforts deep into April; and yet here we are.
The lack of a quorum since February has prevented FERC from making major decisions regarding applications for crucial infrastructure development and improvement across the energy sector. Natural gas pipeline construction and oil pipeline regulation and rates. Hydropower license applications. Rate proceedings. Staff can make some progress on these applications, but even if ready for FERC action too many now are already gathering dust in FERC offices and hearing rooms because only two commissioners are in place.
During his campaign and now in his presidency, President Trump has placed job creation and infrastructure investment at the top of his agenda. Leadership on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate agrees with these broad goals, even as they may differ on the best ways to achieve them. But they all must face the simple fact that a depleted FERC stands in the way of progress on both of these vitally important issues.
The lack of a full quorum is beginning to have a real impact on the industries and employees that our collective organizations represent, and on the hundreds of millions of customers they serve. Thirty-nine states have adopted or considered innovative proposals designed to allow more citizens and businesses to access affordable, abundant, and clean-burning natural gas. Many of those proposals require new interstate natural gas infrastructure projects, which only FERC can authorize. Manufacturers, particularly in the chemical sector, have brought plants and jobs back to the United States precisely because of the cost savings and secure supplies that domestic gas production can offer. If the regulatory risk due to FERC inaction gets too high, they may begin to re-think those decisions.
If President Trump and congressional leaders are serious about jobs and infrastructure, they must move quickly to nominate and confirm at least one new member, and, ideally, three new members, to fill open seats at FERC. Even if the president puts forward names today and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) moves quickly to vet and confirm them as she has promised, it will likely be another two months before any new commissioners take their seats.
That means FERC will have been sitting on the sidelines for half the year. The American people can't afford even one more day.
Dena Wiggins is president and CEO of the Natural Gas Supply Association. Dave McCurdy is president and CEO of the American Gas Association. Toby Mack is president and CEO of the Energy Equipment & Infrastructure Alliance. Barry Russell is president and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. Donald Santa is president and CEO of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America.
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