LaFleur: FERC unlikely to act on pipeline review before Powelson exit
- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will not take any surprise action on its pipeline policy review at its Thursday open meeting, as comments are still coming in until July 26, Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur said Tuesday. FERC will instead focus on a slate of individual orders before her colleague Commissioner Robert Powelson steps down next month.
- With Powelson resigning from FERC in mid-August, the energy regulator will be down to four members, potentially deadlocking the commission on controversial votes. However, making an official decision on the pipeline policy review before Powelson leaves would be a "tall order," LaFleur told reporters.
- FERC Chair Kevin McIntyre addressed the recent increase in the number of natural gas project applications on the commission's podcast on Thursday, highlighting new hiring initiatives that would enable staff to keep up with the growing workload.
FERC is facing many orders on natural gas pipelines, some of which have split the commission's voting. In spite of this, LaFleur believes the commission is focused on "what they're gonna get done while there's still five" members, instead of strategizing for potential 2-on-2 votes when Powelson leaves.
"I don't think people are thinking right now of what they're gonna do when there's four [commissioners]," LaFleur said.
This Thursday, FERC will rule on seven orders regarding pipeline certifications, from rehearing requests to firm service expansions for existing systems. The open meeting is set to be Powelson's last one, after which applications regarding pipeline approvals and climate policy could face a deadlocked commission, empowering the two Democrats who are now in the minority.
LaFleur declined to indicate how she would be voting on the projects this week, although she and fellow Democrat Commissioner Richard Glick have previously diverged from the Republican majority on pipeline applications — most recently last month, in denying a rehearing request for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
"In my case, many of the pipelines I've written separately on I felt were ultimately in the public interest, I just took sharp issue with the way the Commission did its review," she said.
LaFleur also noted the number natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) applications that the commission has received, saying that McIntyre has focused on bringing "more resources to bear on the applications we do have."
On the recent Open Access podcast, McIntyre specifically mentioned hiring more LNG engineering staff to assist FERC's Office of Energy Projects and using more independent contractors, as well as working with other federal agencies or national labs and reviewing FERC processes for possible efficiencies.
FERC has 15 pending LNG applications, of which a majority are LNG export projects, McIntyre said. FERC staff are currently performing construction inspections for six authorized projects.
McIntyre refused to give any timeline indications on larger FERC decisions, however, saying only that he and other commissioners will "closely review the information" submitted on the pending dockets for resilience, natural gas pipeline review and Public Utility Regulatory Practices Act review.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the comment period deadline for FERC's pipeline policy review. Comments are accepted until July 26.
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