Washington — In a move that could enable faster Senate action on pending nominees needed to restore a quorum at the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the White House late Wednesday announced its intent to tap Democrat Richard Glick to serve on the commission.
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Glick is currently minority general counsel for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and has previously served as vice president of government affairs for Iberdrola's renewable energy, electric and gas utility, and natural gas storage businesses in the US.
His likely nomination was quickly welcomed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat-New York.
"Richard Glick is a great pick and I'm glad the administration accepted our recommendation," Schumer said in a statement. "Once he is confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to working with him to support 21st century energy infrastructure, promote transparency, and encourage stakeholder input into FERC decision-making."
Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate energy panel, echoed this sentiment. "Rich Glick has had an accomplished career working on many of the cutting-edge issues associated with the transformation of our energy sector. He will make an excellent addition to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission," she said in a statement Thursday.
Two Republicans previously nominated by President Donald Trump to serve at FERC were confirmed by the Senate energy panel but are idling in a queue of other nominees. Democrats had signaled their desire for a nominee from the minority to move alongside the two Republicans previously named.
Cantwell said she looked "forward to Rich's swift confirmation and thoughtful contributions to a fully functioning FERC," but an aide for her office did not specify how this may impact the timing of votes on the FERC nominees already ripe for Senate action.
"It appears as though this is part of a deal," Tyson Slocum, energy program director at Public Citizen, said of Glick's nomination, which his organization endorsed, calling Glick extremely knowledgeable, competent and thoughtful.
He noted in an interview Thursday that Glick snagged the seat Commissioner Colette Honorable will vacate on Friday, which has a term that does not expire until 2022, as opposed to the seat former Chairman Norman Bay departed in early February that expires next year.
"I think that [Neil] Chatterjee and [Robert] Powelson weren't going to move until Trump formally nominated Glick," Slocum said of the two Republican nominees awaiting a vote by the Senate. "Glick will probably be on a separate track to move, but the important thing was that he got the nomination."
Chatterjee is a longtime energy aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Powelson is a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
McConnell's office had no announcements or guidance to share regarding the scheduling of votes on the pending FERC nominees.
A Senate aide on the minority side, however, said the administration still must send Glick's formal nomination package to the Senate, a process that can happen quickly but has also drawn out for weeks or months under the current administration.
Senate Democrats may insist on formally receiving Glick's nomination before supporting a vote on Chatterjee and Powelson. Further, Chatterjee and Powelson are in a queue that includes some 31 other individuals submitted to the Senate for confirmation to government positions, five of whom have been designated as entitled to expedited procedures.
And as ClearView Energy Partners pointed out in a research note to clients, "The Democrats in the Senate have been frustrating procedural motions -- such as proceeding to consideration of nominations to administration posts -- as a mechanism to oppose the GOP's handling of legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act," often referred to as Obamacare.
"If the Senate Democrats drop their objection to a motion for unanimous consent in the wake of the Glick announcement, the full chamber might consider the confirmation of Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson before the Senate breaks for the Fourth of July district work period on Friday," ClearView said. "Otherwise, we would look to see these nominees considered by the Senate soon after it returns to Washington the week of July 10."
Complicating prospects for action on the FERC nominees, or any nominees, if not acted on this week will be the dwindling number of legislative days to tackle other major issues on the GOP's agenda before the scheduled August recess.
Addressing wish-list items like repealing Obamacare and pushing tax reforms as well as performing mandatory functions such as funding the government beyond the current short-term resolution that ends September 30 will make it harder to secure scarce floor time needed to act on any nominees.
Dena Wiggins, president and CEO of the Natural Gas Supply Association, reminded lawmakers in a statement Thursday that "billions of dollars of investment and thousands of job opportunities in the US are sidelined by a lack of a quorum at FERC, and it is essential that the nominees be given the opportunity to be approved as quickly as possible."
Charlie Riedl, executive director of the Center for LNG, also urged the Senate to ensure that "all the nominees have their floor vote as soon as possible," noting that having a quorum at FERC was "an essential part of the LNG approval process."
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