While quite chatty earlier in November on his vision for a power grid resilience rulemaking, US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee was mum Tuesday on further details on a potential interim step the agency might take to stave off premature retirements of baseload generation.
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Instead, speaking to reporters after an electricity forum hosted by the Consumer Energy Alliance, he provided a lengthy defense of his actions and comments thus far tied to a notice of proposed rulemaking (RM18-1) the Department of Energy sent to FERC in September, denying any gaming or politicization of the rulemaking process was at play.
In remarks during the forum, Chatterjee reiterated his desire to meet DOE's December 11 statutory deadline for action on the NOPR in a legally defensible manner that does not distort wholesale power markets.
To avoid what he deemed to be "severe" consequences of learning that certain generator attributes are vital to grid reliability and resilience after plants with those characteristics are retired, Chatterjee has touted an interim step to keep struggling coal and nuclear generators afloat while FERC completes a longer-term analysis of baseload generation and pricing resilience in the wholesale power markets.
Related Commodity Pulse video: US FERC Chairman Chatterjee on the future of US power markets, coal, nuclear and gas
CHATTERJEE CONFIDENT OF MEETING DEC 11 NOPR DEADLINE
Asked by reporters about the current state of play of his plan, Chatterjee repeatedly said he would not comment on internal deliberations beyond remaining confident in meeting the December 11 deadline.
After FERC's open meeting November 16, Chatterjee told reporters he preferred to fully flesh out his plan before it was presented to his colleagues on the commission for review rather than have them "nitpick through it now."
This raised process questions, particularly concerning the appropriateness of a chairman floating a plan with the press before presenting it in full to fellow commissioners.
"I want to be clear I did not present a plan to the press," Chatterjee told reporters Tuesday. Rather, he said he spoke of "potential avenues" FERC could take as he "felt a sense of obligation" to assuage concerns, "calm everybody down" and provide assurances that the agency was "taking a very thoughtful, deliberative approach."
"Because of the scrutiny and significance of the issue, a lot of people in the media and beyond were speculating as to what actions the commission was taking, there were documents being put out talking about how much certain things would cost, and everyone was guessing without any sort of knowledge of what was being considered internally," Chatterjee said of his rationale for sharing what he called "a top line description of what conceivably we could be working towards."
Chatterjee noted that "a lot of people are saying I'm politicizing the process" due to a November 16 remark regarding time spent studying under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican-Kentucky. Talking to reporters Tuesday, he stressed that such assertions were off base.
"That is simply not true," he said. "What I was trying to do was calm people down who are following this closely. ... There's no game playing, there's no politicizing, and the reference to Senator McConnell was [concerning] the leadership that he shows in difficult situations by putting himself forward and absorbing the hits so that [his colleagues] can deliberate" and address those difficult issues, Chatterjee said.
GLICK TO BE SWORN IN WEDNESDAY
Separately, FERC spokesman Craig Cano on Tuesday said Democrat Richard Glick would be sworn in Wednesday to take his seat at the commission. Glick, formerly general counsel to the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee minority, was confirmed by the Senate November 2, along with Kevin McIntyre, an attorney with Jones Day who is expected to be designated chairman.
The White House signed off on both Glick and McIntyre's paperwork November 21, clearing the way for them to be sworn in. FERC has offered no timeline for when McIntyre may join the commission.
"There are no Machiavellian games being played here," Chatterjee told reporters, attempting to debunk rumors he said he had heard of "intentional delay or dragging things out to some nefarious end."
He attributed the lag in swearing in the new commissioners to "simply a matter of timing, prioritization, getting documents signed." He added: "Once the documents were signed, people have to unwind their own professional obligations in their current jobs before they can transition over, [and] last week was Thanksgiving."
--Jasmin Melvin, email@example.com
--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, firstname.lastname@example.org