June 05, 2017

Wyden to Vote “No” on FERC Nominees

In Responses to Wyden’s Questions, FERC Nominees Fail to Commit to Avoiding White House Interference or Protecting Local Interests in Evaluating Energy Projects

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today announced he will vote against two nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), after they failed to commit to avoiding political interference from the White House or to protecting the interests of local residents in making decisions about future energy projects.

In written responses to questions from Wyden, the two FERC nominees, Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson, did not commit to remaining independent from White House interference in FERC’s deliberative permitting process. 

They also provided no specifics about steps they would take to strengthen public input at FERC for projects in Oregon and across the country.

“Both FERC nominees failed to commit to avoiding political interference from the White House or maximizing public engagement in proposed energy projects,” Wyden said. “Given FERC’s important role in energy infrastructure in Oregon and communities across the country, I am also concerned that nominating commissioners from only one political party is a signal from the White House that it has no intention of ensuring FERC continues as the bipartisan and independent agency it has long been. I will continue to insist FERC considers local voices in its decisions and that the administration moves beyond politics to keep FERC bipartisan and independent.”

Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., recently pressed the administration to refrain from politically interfering in FERC’s evaluation of future energy projects, including the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export facility, which would be sited in Coos Bay, Oregon. 

In May, Wyden joined several Democratic colleagues in introducing the Public Engagement at FERC Act to assist residential and small commercial energy consumers in participating in FERC proceedings, ensuring the public has a strong role in shaping the nation’s energy future.

Additionally, the Trump administration has nominated only Republicans to FERC, and has not given any indication that the administration will appoint members from more than one political party to fill current and future FERC vacancies.

According to federal law, FERC is required to operate with no more than three of its five commissioners from the same political party to fulfill its role in evaluating proposed energy projects. Recent vacancies at FERC would leave the agency with two Republican commissioners and one Democratic-appointed commissioner after June 30 if the administration’s two nominees, Chatterjee and Powelson, are confirmed by the Senate.

In a March letter to the administration, Wyden and 15 other senators pressed Trump to restore a bipartisan quorum of commissioners at FERC.

Read the responses from FERC nominee Powelson here and Chatterjee here.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to vote on the nominations on Tuesday. Wyden is a senior Democrat on the committee.