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US FERC chairman seeks to advance interim step to extend lifeline to baseload

US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee said he hopes to forge ahead in the coming weeks an interim step that extends a lifeline to coal and nuclear plants that are at risk of premature retirement.

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Speaking Thursday at a Platts Energy Podium event, Chatterjee said he sees no need to stave off action on the Department of Energy's contentious energy market proposal on pricing resilience and reliability until two newly confirmed commissioners, one of whom will ascend to the chairmanship, are sworn in.

In September, DOE issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to FERC seeking new market rules that would provide full cost recovery and a return on investment to generators with 90-day on-site fuel supplies.

Chatterjee told reporters he would like to see an interim solution linked, using a sunset provision, to a longer-term analysis that solves broader concerns over grid resilience and baseload generation.



Chatterjee said he will work toward gaining three votes at the commission to move forward with action by December 11, the deadline DOE set for FERC's response to the NOPR.

"We're not going to ignore the deadline; we're going to comply with our statutory obligation. So we've got to move forward," Chatterjee said. "There can only be one chairman at a time and, until a new chairman is sworn into the commission and designated to serve as [chairman] by the president, I've got to continue. It's my responsibility to continue to push forward on the work that's before us."

The Senate last week confirmed Jones Day attorney Kevin McIntyre, a Republican who will come in as FERC chairman, and Richard Glick, a Democrat who has been general counsel to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee minority, but neither has been seated yet.

Chatterjee suggested there was a need, in time to meet the DOE deadline, to develop a legal construct that would hold off losses of baseload generation that could not later be recovered.

"I don't know that we can get everybody in the lifeboat, but I think it's important that [for] plants we may need down the road, we need to evaluate and make that determination."

He added, "how we move forward and what can get three votes on the floor will determine how big that lifeboat is."

Chatterjee said he would not lend support to any interim action that merely studies the problem.

"In my view, the worst outcome would be some kind of mealy-mouthed, doesn't-accomplish-anything study that just further punts this down the road. That, to me, has no value," he said. "We either have to solve it or end it."

Asked what he meant by end it, he said "send the market signal that these plants that are under pressure because of short-term market conditions are likely to retire."

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

--Jasmin Melvin, jasmin.melvin@spglobal.com

--Edited by Valarie Jackson, valarie.jackson@spglobal.com