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Industry again urges quick FERC confirmations as 2 nominations sent to Senate

The natural gas industry again pressed lawmakers to quickly confirm President Donald Trump's picks for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, after the White House sent two more nominations to the U.S. Senate.

The White House on Aug. 2 said it had sent the nominations of Republican energy attorney Kevin McIntyre and Democrat Richard Glick to the Senate, nearly three weeks after the intent to nominate McIntyre as chairman was announced and roughly five weeks after the White House said it was tapping Glick to serve on the commission. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a confirmation hearing to consider the nominations Sept. 7.

Industry groups commended the move but echoed earlier calls for the Senate to quickly confirm at least two nominees to re-establish a working quorum at the commission. "FERC has gone without a quorum for far too long, stalling nearly $4 billion of investment in our nation's energy infrastructure," said Robin Rorick, director of the American Petroleum Institute's midstream and industry operations.

Fred Hutchison, executive director of LNG Allies, said in a letter to Trump that he was hopeful the official nominations of McIntyre and Glick could mean the Senate can confirm the picks before the August recess.

"This matter is important to U.S. LNG export project sponsors because the absence of a FERC quorum has created an agency backlog that — if left unaddressed — could negatively impact the timeline for a dozen pending LNG export project applications," Hutchison wrote.

FERC has been without the three-member quorum that allows the commission to vote on rules, contested cases and permits for energy infrastructure since early February. In May, the White House tapped Neil Chatterjee, an energy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Robert Powelson, president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to FERC, but expectations for when the full Senate will confirm the nominees have been pushed back as Congress focused on health care legislation. Both Chatterjee and Powelson cleared a committee vote June 6.

Height Securities LLC said in an Aug. 3 note that "if we are going to see action, we will probably see it today," which would restore a quorum in time for FERC's September meeting.

"Typically, the Senate would like to move bipartisan nominees to bipartisan commissions together (this is why Glick is so important), but with hours left before the Senate leaves for August recess, there's a chance that they might compromise and send Powelson and Chatterjee through," the policy-focused investment bank said.

When asked whether the Senate would be voting on FERC nominees on Aug. 3, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "The Leader made it clear we will do a nominations package before we leave. I do not have any guidance or announcements as to who may be in or out of that package, including FERC."

ClearView Energy Partners said in an Aug. 2 note that it still sees the Senate on track to confirm Chatterjee and Powelson by the summer recess, but it may be too late for McIntyre and Glick to make the cut.

"At this point, the inclusion of Chatterjee and Powelson in a broad confirmation package before the Senate departs appears to be the most realistic, and possibly the only, option for restoring FERC's quorum before September," ClearView said. "If, however, the pre-recess confirmation package moves without them, we think nominations delays could drag ensemble consideration of all four Commissioners into October."