WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — President Donald Trump has chosen a longtime aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a state utility regulator to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, bringing the agency one step closer to regaining its power to rule on natural gas pipelines and utility mergers.
Trump plans to nominate Neil Chatterjee, a senior energy adviser to Sen. McConnell who previously worked for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and Robert Powelson, a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, for terms expiring in 2021 and 2020, according to an emailed statement from the White House.
Federal lawmakers and industry groups including the Independent Petroleum Association of America and American Petroleum Institute have been urgingTrump to fill the three vacancies on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission quickly. The agency has been without the quorum required to make major decisions when former chairman Norman Bay resigned in February, leaving two Democrats to serve on the panel.
His departure has threatened to stall a massive expansion of the U.S. gas pipeline network brought on by the shale boom.
“Shovel-ready, natural gas pipeline projects are stranded on the sidelines,” Don Santa, president of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, said in a statement. “To build this infrastructure, we need a functioning FERC.”
Once officially nominated, candidates are required to be vetted by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee before a confirmation vote by the full body. Senator Lisa Murkowski, the chairman of that committee, has said she plans to clear nominees as quickly as possible.
Should all go smoothly, the confirmation process could wrap up as early as Memorial Day or early June. However, Democrats concerned about the environmental costs of massive gas projects could slow the process. It took about six months to confirm Bay in 2014.