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FERC back to 5 commissioners as McIntyre sworn in as chairman

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FERC back to 5 commissioners as McIntyre sworn in as chairman

Republican energy attorney Kevin McIntyre was sworn in as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Dec. 7, giving the agency a full complement of five sitting commissioners for the first time since October 2015.

McIntyre joins Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, a Democrat who has served several stints as either chairman or acting chairman since she joined the agency in July 2010, as well as more recent appointees Commissioners Neil Chatterjee, Robert Powelson and Richard Glick.

Chatterjee and Powelson, both Republicans, were sworn in as commissioners in August, followed by Democrat Glick in late November. With the exception of LaFleur, who was tapped to the agency by President Barack Obama, all the sitting commissioners were appointed by President Donald Trump. When nominating McIntyre to the commission in July, Trump named him to lead the agency. Chatterjee has served as chairman since Aug. 10, when he temporarily took over the helm from LaFleur while waiting for McIntyre to be confirmed by the Senate and sworn in to the commission.

FERC needs a minimum of three commissioners for a voting quorum, which it lost in February when former Chairman Norman Bay resigned from the agency. Another commissioner, Colette Honorable, likewise resigned in June, leaving LaFleur alone on the commission until the quorum was restored when Chatterjee and Powelson were sworn in.

Since then, the commissioners have worked steadily to clear up the backlog of cases that had accumulated in the interim. They also have been busy addressing a notice of proposed rulemaking, or NOPR, submitted in September by the U.S. Department of Energy that seeks to stave off the retirement of some coal-fired and nuclear generating resources by recognizing and compensating them for their "fuel secure" nature. That proposal directed FERC to establish new market rules that would provide full cost recovery and a return on investment to generators that stockpile a 90-day fuel supply, are not subject to cost-based rate recovery, and operate in regions that have commission-approved independent system operators and regional transmission organizations with organized energy markets.

The DOE's NOPR (FERC docket RM18-1) was panned by many who insisted that it is unnecessary, will distort the markets and is discriminatory because it favors certain types of generation resources over others. But the agency has indicated it remains committed to act on the proposal, at least in some way, by a DOE-imposed deadline of Dec. 11.

The Senate confirmed the nominations of Glick and McIntyre on Nov. 2, and Glick was sworn in Nov. 29.

Despite speculation to the contrary, Chatterjee has been adamant that the delay in installing his successor was not politically motivated or designed to drum up support for his own interim plan for addressing the concerns raised in the NOPR by providing compensation for generators that exhibit certain resilience attributes. Instead, he suggested that McIntyre was using the time to wind up his existing professional obligations at Jones Day, where he is co-head of the law firm's global energy practice.

During his Senate confirmation hearing, McIntyre stressed that the role of FERC does not include "choosing fuels for the generation of electricity."

Terms on the commission have five-year lives that are staggered so no two run their course at the same time. LaFleur's current term expires in 2019, followed by Powelson's in 2020, Chatterjee's in 2021, and Glick's in 2022. McIntyre's current term expires in June 2018, but along with that term he also was nominated and confirmed for a second one that expires in 2023.