James Danly was sworn in March 31 as a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, giving Republicans a 3-1 majority at the critical energy market regulator.
The action likely ensures a continuing quorum, but may not greatly alter the dynamics at the commission, where Republicans have often outvoted Democratic Commissioner Richard Glick on contentious matters such as natural gas project reviews and Eastern US capacity market orders. Having a new commissioner onboard is seen as a positive, however, in that it brings additional voices, including new staffers, to the crafting of orders.
Danly most recently served as general counsel at FERC, after coming to the commission in September 2017 from the energy practice at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher and Flom LLC.
To fill that empty chair, Chairman Neil Chatterjee named long-time FERC employee David Morenoff to be acting general counsel. Morenoff, who joined the commission in 2006, has served in several senior positions, including as general counsel in 2017 under then-Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur. Most recently, he was deputy general counsel under Danly.
Danly, whose term runs through June 2023, fills the position vacated when Kevin McIntyre died in January 2019.
ClearView Energy Partners noted that Danly’s ascension would make three Republican commissioners available to vote on return on equity complaints against the rates of the New England transmission owners. ClearView had pointed out that Glick appeared permanently recused on those matters.
Asked about how long outgoing Republican Commissioner Bernard McNamee plans to stay on, an aide said, “McNamee is focused on the important work of the commission in helping ensure the efficient and secure operation of the electric grid and natural gas pipelines, as well as important issues related to oil pipelines."
McNamee plans to stay at least until the end of his term, which ends June 30, but could stay longer until a replacement to his particular seat has been confirmed, the aide said in an email.
In the announcement naming Morenoff, Chatterjee said the new acting general counsel has the experience and “trust of all of us here at FERC.” He added, “It’s that kind of dedication to service that we need from a general counsel right now, particularly during this pandemic which has left us all to grapple with new challenges and realities.”
Chatterjee also said he was glad to have Danly join him and his colleagues, “particularly as FERC is dealing with many pressing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to continuing the important work of the agency.”
Senate confirmation of Danly faced pushback from Democrats, who argued that the White House undermined the bipartisan nature of FERC by advancing Danly, a Republican, to fill one open slot while not nominating a Democrat to fill the second vacancy on the five-member commission.
Danly has been considered somewhat of an unknown on electric power market issues but an important participant in crafting FERC’s stance on natural gas project reviews, including a narrower approach to greenhouse gas considerations.
Maya Weber is a reporter with S&P Global Platts. S&P Global Market Intelligence and S&P Global Platts are owned by S&P Global Inc.