The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday will swear in its fifth member and chairman, Republican Kevin McIntyre, giving the panel a full slate of commissioners just days before it is expected to rule on a controversial proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear power plants.
Robert Powelson, a sitting Republican commissioner, suggested Wednesday at an event hosted by PJM Interconnection that McIntyre would be seated on Thursday, saying “tomorrow, we’ll have five [commissioners].”
A FERC spokesman Wednesday night confirmed McIntyre will be sworn in as commissioner Thursday.
Another new commissioner, Richard Glick, a Democrat, was sworn in Nov. 29, but McIntyre’s status was delayed for unknown reasons.
Critics have speculated that Neil Chatterjee, the current chairman, was delaying McIntyre from being sworn in so that he can ensure a favorable vote on Energy Secretary Rick Perry's proposal to give incentives to coal and nuclear plants. The deadline for the decision is Dec. 11.
Chatterjee, who will remain on the commission after McIntyre becomes chairman, shot down that speculation last week, telling reporters “there is no conspiracy here.”
Glick was a Democratic attorney for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. McIntyre is a former energy industry adviser and lawyer.
The Senate confirmed both of their nominations Nov. 2, and their membership on the commission will give FERC a full slate of five members for the first time in two years.
McIntyre and Glick’s position on FERC will be key in figuring how the commission votes on Perry's proposal to compensate coal and nuclear plants for the reliability they bring to the power grid.
Chatterjee, a former staffer of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has expressed strong support for adopting the proposed rule in some form.
He has said he would like to issue an interim measure to boost coal and nuclear plants to give the commission more time to study the issue.
McIntyre and Glick, however, stressed in their September confirmation hearings that they would adhere to the commission's basic duties of approving and regulating the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and crude oil, without favoring one energy source over another.
The other FERC members, Powelson, a former Pennsylvania energy regulator who joined the board this summer, and Cheryl LaFleur, a Democratic holdover from the Obama administration, have reacted more skeptically to Perry's plan, vowing to maintain the board’s independence.
FERC, which is independent, is not required by statute to rule on Perry’s proposal by Dec. 11, and McIntyre as chairman will have the authority to extend the process or even reject it outright.