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Top FERC economist heading to Vistra Energy regulatory team

Vistra Energy Corp. has hired Arnold Quinn, an outgoing top-ranking agency director and senior economist at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to help lead the company's regulatory affairs group in Washington, D.C.

FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre announced on May 7 that Quinn, director of FERC's Office of Energy Policy and Innovation and a senior economist overseeing the agency's power market price formation reform efforts, would leave the agency at the end of May, prompting well-wishes from commissioners.

"His 15-year track record is nothing short of remarkable," FERC Commissioner Robert Powelson wrote May 17 on Twitter. "I wish to take this opportunity to wish him good luck and god-speed on his next journey!"

"Congratulations Arnie," FERC commissioner Cheryl LaFleur added. "You will truly be missed."

That journey now appears to be helping oversee regulatory affairs for the largest competitive power generator in the United States, amid a tumultuous policy environment where power producers continue to grapple with state and potentially federal policy provisions intended to support legacy coal-fired and nuclear generating assets, in addition to the integration of energy storage and distributed generation into wholesale markets.

"Vistra Energy is pleased to welcome Arnold Quinn to our team in early June. Mr. Quinn will be a senior director in the company's regulatory policy group and based in Washington, D.C.," Vistra spokesman Allan Koenig said in a statement to S&P Global Market Intelligence. "He will be responsible for helping develop Vistra's strategy and position for a wide range of policy issues in the various markets where we operate and have assets."

For Vistra, which became the largest U.S. power generating company by capacity in April following completion of its merger with Dynegy Inc., the hire represents an endeavor by the company to expand its regulatory muscle in Washington's power lobby. Federal power issues in recent months have been largely dominated by FirstEnergy Corp.'s overtures to the Department of Energy and FERC to provide additional revenue to aging coal-fired and nuclear plants on the basis of grid resiliency and national security.

Quinn has in the last year helped guide discussions during FERC technical conferences on state policy in competitive markets, a topic that pitted pure merchant generators, like Calpine Corp. and NRG Energy Inc., against diversified, nuclear-heavy utilities like Exelon Corp. and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. in state halls and federal courtrooms.

Vistra on May 7 filed comments with FERC regarding the impact of state policies on PJM Interconnection's capacity pricing mechanism, urging FERC to reject PJM's capacity repricing proposal, and instead pursue a new minimum offer price rule, separate from the so-called MOPR-Ex option.

Quinn could not be reached for comment.