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Photo: Chuck Kennedy / Axios

A top energy regulator downplayed his goal of throwing a near-term "lifeline" to struggling coal and nuclear power plants during a conversation with Axios' Amy Harder this morning.

Neil Chatterjee, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said he was still looking to do that, but emphasized that his "first priority" was a longer term analysis of grid resilience. He had been acting chairman of FERC until last week when the current chair, Kevin McIntyre, was sworn in.

Why it matters: Chatterjee's cautious comments about his push for quick aid to prevent plants from retiring signal the hurdles he faces getting colleagues on the five-member agency on board with the "lifeline" idea.

The remarks come as FERC, an independent agency, is more broadly weighing a sweeping plan from Energy Secretary Rick Perry to boost compensation for some coal and nuclear plants based on their "resilience and reliability" attributes. Chatterjee has been calling for an interim step while the commission works on Perry's proposal.

Yes, but: In remarks to reporters after the event, Chatterjee said he was not backing off his effort to find agreement on some kind of "lifeline" while FERC weighs Perry's proposal.

But acknowledged that "trying to land that is difficult."

Chatterjee also noted that two of his colleagues—McIntyre and Richard Glick—have only recently arrived at FERC, and that as of Monday morning he had not yet had the chance to meet in person with McIntyre.

What's next: Perry is pressing FERC for action on his proposed cost-recovery rule by mid-January. But FERC has the authority to interpret the deadline broadly and could take steps that effectively lengthen the process further.

More from Axios’ energy event:

  • Chatterjee wants to see a more focused energy policy from Congress, saying, “Congress hasn't passed a major energy bill in more than a decade. Most changes made through tax code, spending bills or regulators. We need a national energy policy from Congress.”
  • Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) addressed Rick Perry’s infamous “cost of freedom” remark: “We can toss that word around but it’s about having policy…Where do you want the government in good format to insert itself?…Do you insert that government so as to develop policy and a sound process, or do you come in at the end to ignore science and provide cleanup?”
  • Tonko said that energy should be addressed in the White House’s forthcoming infrastructure package, stating, “When the president talks about infrastructure, I would hope grid infrastructure would be a part of that whole phenomenon.” Tonko is the top Democrat on the Environment Subcommittee of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.
  • Tonko said he backed both nuclear power and natural gas as clean enegy resources, despite some grassroots environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, opposing both.
  • Nick Loris, an energy economist at the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, said the group supports reviewing scientific finding that concluded greenhouse gas emissions endanger pubilc health and welfare, and thus must be regulated. The group is influential with the Trump administration and could have influence in this area, though the Environmental Protection Agency, which issued the finding in 2009 during the Obama administration, hasn't indicated it will review it.

Go deeper

Former Sen. Bob Dole dies

Former Senator Bob Dole in 2019. Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

Former Kansas Senator Leader Bob Dole passed away Sunday morning at the age of 98, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced in a statement.

Driving the news: Dole, a revered figure in U.S. politics and the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, served in the Senate for 27 years, including 11 years as GOP leader. Earlier this year he revealed he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

Movie theaters go out of style

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vaccination rates are going up, people are going out to restaurants again — although the new COVID variant may get in the way — but they still aren't rushing back to the movies.

By the numbers: Some 49% of pre-pandemic moviegoers are no longer hitting theaters, according to a study from the film research company The Quorum, as reported by the New York Times.

5 hours ago - Health

Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

European countries are doubling down on pressure campaigns to get people vaccinated just as Republicans continue to wage war — often successfully — against vaccine mandates in the U.S.

Why it matters: The starkly different approaches create a sharp contrast between the regions' approaches to vaccination, even as the Omicron variant rapidly spreads around the world.

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