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Power producers ratchet up pressure on Senate to approve FERC nominees

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Power producers ratchet up pressure on Senate to approve FERC nominees

The nearly six-month lack of a quorum at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is holding up billions of dollars in energy projects and "must be rectified immediately," a group of electric power producers told U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Electric Reliability Coordinating Council wrote a July 31 letter to McConnell urging swift confirmation of President Donald Trump's nominees to FERC. The agency currently has only one sitting commissioner, Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur, but needs three to achieve a quorum, which allows the agency to approve major infrastructure projects, such as new natural gas pipelines and LNG terminals, and decide on significant power and gas tariff and rate cases.

"The failure to promptly confirm sufficient commissioners to restore a quorum ... is creating a serious obstacle to critical infrastructure, energy independence, national security and protection of energy consumers like the millions we serve across the United States," the letter said. The Electric Reliability Coordinating Council is made of power generators including Ameren Corp., Duke Energy Corp., DTE Energy Co., Salt River Project, Southern Co. and Vistra Energy Corp.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted June 6 to approve two of Trump's GOP FERC nominees, Senate aide Neil Chatterjee and Pennsylvania utility regulator Robert Powelson, but the full Senate has yet to consider their nominations. Trump also announced his intent to nominate energy attorney Kevin McIntyre as FERC chairman and Democrat Richard Glick to the commission, but the White House has yet to send the official nominations to the Senate.

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America has estimated about $14 billion in private capital for energy infrastructure projects is being held up by the lack of a FERC quorum. The council's July 31 letter added that about 75,000 direct jobs are in jeopardy from the regulatory hold-ups. "Every week's delay compounds the problem as seasonal windows for pipeline analyses close and potential for energy price spikes increase," the letter said.

The Senate postponed its summer recess until mid-August to allow more time to work on nominations, a defense bill and other items after being consumed with healthcare policy for much of July. But the timing of a possible vote on FERC nominees is unclear. McConnell's spokesman, Robert Steurer, said Aug. 1 that the leader's office had no scheduling announcements regarding votes on FERC nominees.