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White House taps Chatterjee to chair FERC in light of McIntyre health issues


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White House taps Chatterjee to chair FERC in light of McIntyre health issues

President Donald Trump has designated Neil Chatterjee to chair the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission amid health problems for the previous Chairman Kevin McIntyre, the White House announced late Oct. 24.

But McIntyre in an Oct. 22 letter to Trump, which was posted on FERC's website soon after the announcement was made, said he will stay on with the agency as a commissioner as he works to recover from undisclosed health issues.

"I ... propose to step aside from the position of chairman and its additional duties so that I can commit myself fully to my work as commissioner, while undergoing the treatment necessary to address my health issues," McIntyre said.

McIntyre, who underwent surgery in the summer of 2017 to remove a brain tumor, said he "very recently experienced a more serious health setback." That setback left him "currently unable to perform the duties of chairman with the level of focus that the position demands and that FERC and the American people deserve," McIntyre wrote.

FERC held its most recent open meeting on Oct. 18. McIntyre was forced to miss that meeting, his second such absence after he missed the September monthly meeting because of what he described as his "ongoing recovery." He announced in March that he had surgery to remove a "relatively small" brain tumor that had been discovered the previous summer. In a July podcast, he listed additional health challenges, including an arm injury sustained in a fall and compression fractures in two vertebrae. Up until now, the chairman has maintained that his health issues do not affect his work at the commission.

Chatterjee previously occupied the chairman's seat when he first came to the commission in August 2017, before McIntyre, picked by Trump to be chairman, was approved by the Senate in November 2017 and sworn in at the commission the following December.

McIntyre and Chatterjee are the two remaining Republicans after Commissioner Robert Powelson left the five-person commission in August. FERC also has two sitting Democrats — Commissioners Cheryl LaFleur and Richard Glick.

Trump recently picked Bernard McNamee, who is the U.S. Department of Energy's deputy general counsel, to replace Powelson. McNamee's trip through the U.S. Senate confirmation process could be a rough one, according to energy industry analysts. McNamee has supported Energy Secretary Rick Perry's proposal to have electric grid operators cover the costs of power plants in wholesale markets that store at least 90 days of fuel onsite, a characteristic that would favor coal-fired and nuclear generators.

In January, FERC voted to reject the proposal as legally deficient and without support in the record.