Washington — US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member Bernard McNamee will not seek another term after his expires at the end of June, potentially adding pressure on the White House to advance more nominees to maintain a quorum and a Republican majority at the commission.
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McNamee announced his plans at FERC's open meeting Thursday, saying, "I love this job, but I love my family more." He noted his travel back and forth between Washington and Richmond, where his wife and 14-year-old son live.
But McNamee said he did not plan to exit before the end of June and told reporters that he would likely stay on until the replacement for his particular spot at FERC is seated. Commissioners can retain their seats until the end of the Congressional session.
Chairman Neil Chatterjee said it is "entirely possible" McNamee would serve well beyond the next six months, perhaps even until the end of the year, adding he was confident McNamee "will not leave us without a quorum at any point."
FERC in early 2017 was left without a quorum for six months, when former Chairman Norman Bay stepped down after being displaced as chairman. During that period, FERC was unable to act on much of its regular business, including authorizing natural gas projects. FERC also struggled to advance some natural gas orders when it was evenly split between two Democrats and two Republicans. FERC currently has two Republicans and one Democrat.
To fill the spot that has been vacant since the death of former Chairman Kevin McIntyre, the White House is expected to again nominate Republican James Danly, currently FERC's general counsel. While Danly was nominated last year and his confirmation advanced through committee, the full Senate did not vote on his confirmation before the end of the session, thus sending his nomination back to the White House.
While Democrats have argued that Danly's nomination should be paired with a Democrat, the White House is expected to send Danly's nomination to the Senate independently, potentially pairing a Democrat with McNamee's replacement. That would avoid the risk of another period of four commissioners, and potential 2-2 splits, were Danly to be paired with a Democrat sooner.
Chatterjee told reporters he was confident that Danly's nomination would be forthcoming. "We have a nominee," he said, calling the White House re-nomination a "paperwork issue."
"I don't think there's much to that and I remain optimistic that he will be confirmed in due course. I can tell you with complete confidence that, barring some unforeseen incident, we will not lose a quorum this year," Chatterjee said.
After the open meeting, McNamee told reporters that one of the most consequential things he worked on at FERC was approval of LNG facilities; 11 major projects gained FERC certificates in 2019. "I got here and just dug into the law and the facts and was able to find common ground with Commissioner [Cheryl] LaFleur and the chairman ... and we were able to get LNG projects approved," he said.
Chatterjee also noted McNamee's role in proposing reforms to the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act's implementation and developing FERC's recent order to extend the reach of the minimum offer price rule for the PJM Interconnection capacity market.
Commissioner Richard Glick, who has frequently sparred with McNamee over climate considerations in natural gas projects, also praised him as "incredibly smart and incredibly well studied."
"Although we certainly do have strong disagreements, I know that everything he says he believes," he said.
Prior to joining FERC, NcNamee served as executive director of DOE's Office of Policy and briefly worked at conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation. He also served as DOEdeputy general counsel, represented energy and utility clients at McGuireWoods, and was a policy adviser for Senator Ted Cruz, Republican-Texas, and chief of staff for the Texas attorney general.