UPDATE: Aug. 6, 2020: Commissioner Bernard McNamee will step down from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Sept. 4, he announced Wednesday, leaving FERC with three commissioners. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Sen. Joe Mancin, D-W. Va., said the commissioner's departure date ups the urgency for confirming White House nominees Allison Clements and Mark Christie to the commission.
"Commissioner McNamee's announcement that he will be stepping down in a month's time means FERC will be operating with only three commissioners as opposed to five. This was not the intention of Congress when the Commission was created," Manchin said in a statement following the announcement. "Currently, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee lacks the necessary paperwork to hold a confirmation hearing for FERC nominees Allison Clements and Mark Christie. I am hopeful the Committee will act quickly to restore a fully seated FERC once we have the necessary paperwork."
- Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Bernard McNamee announced on Thursday he will not seek another term on the commission.
- As he was appointed to finish out former Chair Kevin McIntyre's term at FERC, his time at the commission officially ends on June 30. He plans to stay through the end of the year or until another commissioner is appointed, whichever comes first.
- FERC Chair Neil Chatterjee said he expects McNamee, based on "his commitment to public service," to continue working past June 30, until another commissioner is appointed. "I can tell you with complete confidence that, barring some unforeseen incident, we will not lose quorum this year," he told reporters.
For many energy sector stakeholders, the 2017 lack of quorum within FERC, which prevented the regulatory commission from acting on most of its business, is still a fresh memory. And with only three of five commissioners currently in place, losing McNamee could mean more regulatory uncertainty.
However, McNamee said he is going to stay beyond his end date, as allowed, in order to prevent such an incident. He has communicated to the White House that he will not be seeking a second term. The administration is working on nominations, he told reporters.
In November, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced, mostly across party lines, the president's FERC nominee, James Danly, who is currently serving as FERC general counsel. However, that nomination was returned to the White House at the end of 2019, after the Senate failed to confirm or reject Danly in one annual session, as per Senate rules.
The White House has not officially renominated Danly, but Chatterjee told the press he considers the process "a paperwork issue" and that he "remain[s] optimistic."
Danly would be the third Republican with only one Democrat currently on the commission, although Democrats have asked for the White House to officially nominate a Democratic candidate alongside Danly.
A fifth commissioner spot has been vacant since LaFleur's exit in August, although a Democratic pick has already been vetted for nomination.
Chatterjee added that priorities won't be getting shifted based on McNamee's news.
"I don't see any change in direction, there's no prioritization or moving around of agenda," he said, adding that former Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur also stayed past the end of her official term in 2019.
Chatterjee credited McNamee for working together with him and LaFleur, a Democrat, to advance a number of natural gas infrastructure projects.
McNamee, whose family is based in Richmond, said he would not seek another FERC term for personal reasons. According to Chatterjee, the commissioner will be transitioning to spend more time at home as his son advances to high school. McNamee did not make any statements about his next role.
The federal regulator has a number of pending issues, including the potential for a rehearing of its December order to set a higher floor price for state-subsidized resources in the PJM Interconnection.
"We take ... the comments for rehearing extremely seriously here and want to ensure that whatever action the Commission takes has maximum legal durability," Chatterjee said.
FERC will be reviewing the various requests filed for rehearing of the PJM Minimum Offer Price Rule decision. Stakeholders pushing back on the commission's decision include the grid operator.