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In surprising move, Powelson to step down from US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Washington — With less than a year under his belt, Robert Powelson said Thursday hewould step down from the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission inmid-August to take the helm at the National Association of WaterCompanies. His tenure would be the shortest in the history of FERC.

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"I express my gratitude to President Trump for nominating me and to themembers of the United States Senate who confirmed me. I thank mycolleagues for their steadfast commitment to FERC's mission, members ofthe public who help inform our decisions, and the staff at FERC for theirdedication and support throughout my time at the commission, especiallythe members of my office," Powelson said in a brief statement announcinghis exit.

The outspoken Republican commissioner was confirmed by the Senate August4 and sworn in August 10, bringing the commission to the three membersneeded to officially restore its quorum to perform its full range ofbusiness.

Since taking his seat on the panel, Powelson has been a proponent ofnatural gas infrastructure development and staunch supporter of thewholesale competitive power markets. These views have at times put him atodds with the Trump administration's effort to aid struggling coal andnuclear power plants, as he infamously stated in October: "I did not signup to go blow up the markets."

Just Wednesday, he questioned whether a recent approach floated was toonarrowly focused on one region and could be "ganging up" on PJMInterconnection "for no apparent reason."

Asked if his early departure from the commission was in any way relatedto his apparent discomfort with Department of Energy initiatives tosupport coal and nuclear power plants, Powelson insisted that he simplywas responding to an "incredible opportunity" to head up the waterassociation. "As you know, I chaired the [National Association ofRegulatory Utility Commissioners] Water Committee for three years andhave worked very hard with the water industry on promoting water-qualityissues, progressive ratemaking tools, infrastructure replacement andbeing an active voice for municipal system consolidations. The NAWC has arich tradition working with state and federal officials and I'm stoked tohit the ground the running," he said in an email to S&P Global PlattsThursday.

His departure leaves more opportunity for the commission to be split 2-2on some issues, such as gas pipeline approvals, or further DOE proposalsto help coal and nuclear generation, should those make their way to FERC.

Prior to joining FERC, Powelson was a member of the Pennsylvania PublicUtility Commission, where he served since 2008 and held the post ofchairman from 2011 to 2015. He is also a past president of NARUC.

In addition to his PUC duties, Powelson served on Pennsylvania'sMarcellus Shale Advisory Commission in 2011. As part of his NARUCinvolvement, he focused on critical infrastructure, nuclear waste andpipeline safety. --Jasmin Melvin, jasmin.melvin@spglobal.com

--Maya Weber, maya.weber@spglobal.com

--Edited by Valarie Jackson, newsdesk@spglobal.com