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Dogged by health issues, US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Kevin McIntyre is widely expected to transfer the gavel, at least temporarily, to his fellow Republican, Commissioner Neil Chatterjee.
Washington sources also raised the possibility that McIntyre might be forced to resign his seat on the commission, potentially leaving Chatterjee as permanent chairman.
McIntyre was forced to miss his second straight monthly FERC open meeting Thursday due to health complications, sources said.
McIntyre, who joined FERC in December, this summer disclosed he had suffered compression fractures in two vertebrae affecting his mobility, and had injured his arm in a fall. Before joining the commission, he had surgery for a brain tumor found the previous summer.
In a March statement disclosing the tumor treatment, he said he was doing well and able to maintain his active work life.
Since the midsummer injury, he has not kept regular office hours at the commission and has worked mostly remotely, commission sources said.
Chatterjee switched to the chairman's seat for the September 20 meeting and did so again Thursday morning to open the meeting. Chatterjee said only that McIntyre would not be attending the meeting and that "my prayers are with him and his family." The extent of McIntyre's health issues have not been publicly disclosed.
McIntyre voted by proxy on the full slate of agenda items taken up at the September meeting, but for Thursday's open meeting he did not record any votes. However, he did participate in notational items voted out earlier in the week as part of the commission's routine caseload. Sources in the energy law community have expressed differing opinions on whether vote by proxy is allowed for an open agenda meeting at the commission.
If McIntyre has to step down, the White House will designate a new chairman.
Chatterjee would be the only remaining Republican, although Department of Energy official Bernard McNamee, also a Republican, has been nominated to fill the empty seat on the commission.
FERC spokesman Craig Cano declined to comment Thursday on McIntyre's situation or the future leadership of FERC.
While rumors circulated throughout Washington Thursday that an official statement on McIntyre's situation was expected imminently from either FERC or the White House, FERC Chief of Staff Anthony Pugliese sought to defuse the speculation.
"I do not expect any sort of statement today," he told Platts. "Kevin McIntyre is still the Chairman of FERC and I pray for a speedy recovery and am optimistic the American people will continue to benefit from his leadership moving forward."
Before joining the commission, McIntyre was co-leader of the global energy practice at law firm Jones Day. The Senate confirmed him to fill a term that expired June 30, and for an additional five-year term that expires June 30, 2023.
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