McIntyre to take FERC chairmanship as rumors swirl of NOPR deal
- Kevin McIntyre will be sworn in as the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday, the agency confirmed this week.
- The incoming chairman was confirmed by the Senate more than a month ago, and the delay stoked rumors in Washington about FERC staffing privileges and the outcome of the Department of Energy's cost recovery proposal for coal and nuclear plants.
- Commissioners Cheryl LaFleur and Robert Powelson may be working on a compromise for that cost recovery proposal, The Energy Daily reports, in which FERC would issue a 90-day Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to regional grid operators on power system resilience.
McIntyre will take the helm of FERC just as it prepares to rule on the DOE's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which proposed full cost recovery for merchant plants with 90-days of fuel onsite.
DOE directed FERC to act by Dec. 11 and this week reports surfaced of a possible deal between LaFleur and Powelson that could resolve the high-profile proceeding.
Drawing on unnamed "informed sources," The Energy Daily reported Wednesday that the two commissioners are crafting an NOI that would give regional grid operators 90 days to issue reports on the resilience of their power systems and what FERC can do to enhance those capabilities.
If accurate, the plan's structure would resemble an interim proposal outlined by outgoing Chairman Neil Chatterjee, but would exclude short-term payments proposed by Chatterjee to support at-risk coal and nuclear facilities.
Chatterjee's plan, outlined to Utility Dive last month, was immediately controversial in the sector. The outgoing chairman said the "asset owners" — operators of the coal and nuclear plants — convinced him that reliability could be threatened if their plants retire. But critics see the plan, like the DOE NOPR, as a bailout for friends of the Trump administration.
Powelson and LaFleur's plan could provide a less controversial solution, answering the DOE's call for an examination of grid resilience while preserving existing market functions. Both regulators have pledged not to support any proposal that "blows up" the wholesale power markets — a central concern from former FERC regulators with the NOPR.
It remains unclear if the Energy Daily report is accurate, or how other FERC commissioners feel about the reported proposal. FERC declined to comment for the outlet's story, but Chatterjee did include an NOI in a list of policy options on the NOPR that he presented during an October press roundtable.
McIntyre's swearing-in will put to rest other rumors regarding the DOE NOPR — namely that Chatterjee or the White House may want to see the outgoing chairman keep the gavel long enough to push his interim plan through.
The incoming chairman will arrive at FERC more than a week after Commissioner Richard Glick, though both were confirmed on Nov. 2. The former Jones Day energy lawyer has extensive experience with power market law, but his feelings on pressing issues such as the NOPR and pipeline approvals are unclear.
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