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FERC swears in Phillips as fifth commissioner giving Democrats 3-2 majority

Highlights

Glick says he plans to work in bipartisan manner

Phillips starts term expiring June 30, 2026

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission swore in Willie Phillips to start a five-year term as the fifth commissioner on Dec. 3.

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With Phillips on the commission, Democratic Chairman Richard Glick will have a 3-2 advantage over his Republican colleagues, the first time Democrats have held the majority under the Biden administration. Phillips' term ends June 30, 2026.

Glick has said he intends to work in a bipartisan manner, scoffing at assumptions that Democrats would "roll the Republicans all the time" once Phillips was sworn in.

The new commissioner joins FERC as the regulator seeks to determine how to assess climate impacts of natural gas projects, a contentious issue that has affected gas pipeline decisions that the commission used to approve with relative ease.

Phillips will also play an important role in helping to shape FERC's transmission proceeding, which has garnered significant interest and input over the last few months.

The commission launched an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in July that will examine ways to improve regional transmission planning, cost allocation and interconnection processes as the US moves to add cleaner energy sources onto the grid.

The former DC regulator is also poised to help break deadlocks at FERC. The 2-2 divide has recently resulted in a contested PJM Interconnection capacity market overhaul and the proposed Southeast Energy Exchange Market becoming effective by operation of law.

Experience

In September, President Joe Biden nominated Phillips, the former chairman of the District of Columbia Public Service Commission, to assume a seat vacated by Neil Chatterjee after the former FERC chairman's term expired. The US Senate confirmed Phillips in a voice vote in November, following the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's approval of the nominee.

Phillips joined the public service commission in 2014 and became chairman in 2018. The former DC regulator has nearly 20 years of legal experience in the public and private sectors, having worked in public utility regulation, corporate governance and bulk power system reliability, FERC said in a Dec. 3 statement.

Over that time, Phillips has served as assistant general counsel for the North American Electric Reliability Corp. and two law firms. He has also served on the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners' board of directors and held a leadership position on the Electric Power Research Institute Advisory Council, FERC said.

Phillips received his law degree from Howard University School of Law and a bachelor of science from the University of Montevallo.