Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski said Thursday that she will announce confirmation hearings soon for President Trump's nominees to the nation's lead energy watchdog, which has been shut down for more than three months because it doesn't have enough members.
"I welcome the president's announcement of two well-qualified nominees and look forward to restoring FERC's quorum as soon as possible," the Alaska Republican said after the White House formally sent the nominations to the Senate Wednesday night. "We will announce a hearing to review their nominations as soon as we receive all relevant paperwork, and seek to confirm them as expeditiously as possible."
The president selected Neil Chatterjee, senior energy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Robert Powelson, a Pennsylvania energy regulator, to serve full-length terms on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which many believe will be key to meeting many of Trump's energy and infrastructure goals.
"Neil will bring expertise and an ability to work with diverse groups of decision makers, while Rob has cultivated a reputation as a leader on the utility commission of a major energy producing and consuming state," Murkowski said.
FERC was forced to shut down its decision-making functions in February after it lost most of its five members. It is down to two members but requires at least three to reach a quorum and issue decisions and orders on everything from citing new interstate natural gas pipelines to regulating the wholesale electricity markets. One of the two remaining members, Colette Honorable, is planning to step down after her term expires in June. So the gaps will be increasing and require Trump to name more commissioners.
The commission is comprised of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, with the chairman being of the same party of the president.
Trump named Cheryl Lafleur, a Democrat, to serve as FERC's acting chairwoman. Soon after that decision, former chairman Norman Bay announced his resignation.