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FERC's chair misses 2nd straight open meeting, presumably due to health issues

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FERC's chair misses 2nd straight open meeting, presumably due to health issues

The question of who will serve as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's chairman going forward is being raised once again after the agency's current head missed a monthly open meeting for the second time in a row.

FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre in March revealed that he had undergone surgery to remove a small brain tumor discovered the previous summer but said he had since resumed his usual active lifestyle. However, in a July podcast, McIntyre said he was dealing with additional health challenges, including compression fractures in two of his vertebrae and injuries caused by a fall.

McIntyre was a last-minute no-show at the agency's September monthly meeting, but he still voted on agenda items addressed there. In a statement read at that time by Commissioner Neil Chatterjee, who conducted the meeting in the chairman's absence, McIntyre said he was still recovering from health issues.

Chatterjee on Oct. 18 once again led FERC's open meeting, and this time the commission's secretary announced that McIntyre would not be participating in the vote on any of the agenda items. No further details were provided, although Chatterjee and fellow commissioners said their prayers were with McIntyre and his family.

While McIntyre until now claimed that his struggles have not affected his ability to get FERC's work done, his failure to cast votes on the October agenda items has some insiders and journalists on Twitter speculating that things may have changed, and he therefore may have no option but to step down. Presumably, Chatterjee would then take the gavel, at least on a temporary basis like he did before McIntyre was sworn in as FERC's head in December 2017.

McIntyre and Chatterjee are the only Republicans at FERC, and two other seats are filled by Democrats. The agency's fifth seat has been empty ever since Robert Powelson, a Republican, departed the agency in mid-August. However, President Donald Trump recently nominated U.S. Department of Energy official Bernard McNamee, also a Republican, to fill the empty seat. A Senate panel will consider McNamee's nomination after the November midterm elections.