The Senate restored the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday with the confirmation of two Republican members that will bring the regulatory agency back to the number of commissioners needed to conduct the work of regulating the nation's energy infrastructure.
The Senate approved Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to serve on the commission after two months of waiting for a vote on the Senate floor. Both were approved by unanimous consent.
FERC has lacked a quorum for nearly seven months after all its prior Republican members' terms had expired and the former Democratic chairman of the commission left after Trump appointed another Democrat, Cheryl LaFleur, to serve as acting chairwoman. LaFleur was the only remaining member left on the commission before today's votes.
"Happy day!" LaFleur tweeted. "Very excited to work with new Commissioners Chatterjee and Powelson!"
The five-member commission requires at least three members to sustain a quorum and do its business of regulating interstate electricity and natural gas markets. The commission is made up of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats with the chairman sharing the same party as the president.
The agency is considered key to meeting most of Trump's energy and infrastructure goals, including his focus on exporting more natural gas overseas. FERC approves natural gas export terminals and issues permits for interstate oil and natural gas pipelines.
"We applaud the Senate for confirming Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to serve as members of FERC, thereby restoring the commission's quorum, which has been absent for six months," said Don Santa, the head Interstate Natural Gas Association of America.
"The commission now can get back to work thoroughly reviewing the many energy infrastructure projects of national importance that have been sidelined in recent months," Santa said.
"We appreciate the Trump administration formally nominating Republican Kevin McIntyre (designated as chairman) and Democrat Richard Glick and are encouraged to see that the Energy and Natural Resources Committee has already scheduled a hearing for the two nominees in September," he added. "INGAA hopes that the Senate can confirm McIntyre and Glick as soon as possible."
Utility groups and other oil and gas trade associations applauded the Senate for restoring the agency ahead of the August recess.