San Antonio — Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member Richard Glick said a lack of compromise and bipartisanship has been one negative surprise since he joined FERC, but was hopeful recent discussions with his Republican colleagues could help turn the corner.
Glick participated in a wide-ranging question-and-answer session Tuesday at the annual meeting of the National Association of State Utility Commissioners, during which he also worried FERC decisions countering state resource policies could set the stage for further tensions over wholesale power markets.
While most FERC decisions are unanimous, party-line divides have emerged over climate considerations in natural gas reviews and on how the commission treats state resource decisions in wholesale power markets.
Glick said there has not been as much opportunity for compromise or negotiations within FERC as he expected before he joined.
"I think there has been a general notion that once you have the votes ... the majority are going to go on," he said. "I hope we can return to the days when FERC used to be more of a nonpartisan, independent agency where we're going to spend some time working together, working on the issues."
In an interview on the sidelines of the conference, Glick said that since FERC's October open meeting, when "things got a little heated," he has had positive discussions about those tensions with Chairman Neil Chatterjee and Commissioner Bernard McNamee.
"At least give us the common decency of having an ability to discuss and debate the issues, and I'm hopeful that maybe we can turn the corner and put some processes into place that'll be more collaborative." He said he would try to keep his comments to substance, avoiding criticism of process that can put staff in the middle.
Glick separately worried a clash with states could imperil organized wholesale markets.
Amid jurisdictional tensions between FERC and states over state clean energy goals and other state policies, Glick told reporters he was getting feedback that states "don't feel like they're being heard."
"They're afraid of engaging in activities that would give FERC additional jurisdiction over something," said Glick, who was the only commissioner at the NARUC meeting.
"I think it threatens the future of the [regional transmission organizations], and I don't that it's too dramatic to say that," he said, explaining his concerns that if FERC's approach is to block state policy options, states would exit RTOs.
His preference, he told the NARUC general session, was for FERC to figure out a way to accommodate state policies.
"I'm concerned that this is going to become a much more fractious issue as we go forward," because more states are adopting policies supporting various energy technologies. "To the extent regulators at FERC say we need to figure out a way to block those states from moving forward, I think we're asking for a lot of problems," he said.
Separately, Glick continued to air his concerns about a recent FERC proposal to overhaul the way it implements the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act. Glick believes the proposed rule runs counter to instructions from Congress for FERC to facilitate opportunities for small power producers in states that don't have competitive markets. Glick spoke favorably, however, about a NARUC proposal that would allow utilities in non-competitive markets to opt out of PURPA requirements to the extent they set up a fully competitive procurement process.
"I'm hoping we go back and take a look at that. That seems to me to be the best for consumers, and I think that is consistent with Congress' intent," he said.
He expected a final rule from FERC on PURPA at some point in 2020. "I would say the first half [of 2020] most likely, although that's up to the chairman."
-- Maya Weber, firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Edited by Pankti Mehta, email@example.com
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