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What's next for FERC

FERC offices

FERC headquarters in D.C. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

We finally have FERC nominees. It's a familiar list that would fill out the five-member panel as it embarks on high-profile work on transmission and natural gas.

Why it matters: Judy Chang, David Rosner and Lindsay See are likely to be confirmed — eventually.

  • But the timing of the confirmation battle creates "an interesting strategic conundrum," former FERC Chair Neil Chatterjee told Axios, because it could impact transmission priorities that are currently before the commission.

What we're watching: The nominees will likely face questions about transmission and the Biden administration's LNG export permit pause, given that Republicans want to give FERC more power over export terminal applications.

  • "They're not going to say anything [substantive about the pause], but it's definitely going to come up," Chatterjee said. "And really the broader issue about the LNG pause is [that] there are certificate applications before FERC right now in the LNG space."
  • Progressive green groups will oppose See and Rosner, whom they view as fossil fuel–friendly.

Between the lines: FERC's working on a long-anticipated rulemaking on regional transmission planning, which could be finished soon, before the new commissioners are confirmed.

  • But if the rule is challenged and kicked back to FERC, the new commissioners might need time to staff up and put their own stamp on it, Chatterjee said.
  • Devin Hartman, a former FERC staffer, predicts "a little bit of a reset at FERC."
  • "That doesn't mean that the chairman's priorities will necessarily shift overall," said Hartman, who now leads energy and environment policy at R Street. "It'll probably just be a little bit of a pause to reassess as the new commissioners get acclimated."

Zoom in: Chang, a Democrat, is well known in policy circles, having served as a top energy and climate official under former Massachusetts GOP Gov. Charlie Baker.

  • Rosner, the other Democratic pick, is similarly known as a technocrat.
  • He worked at the Bipartisan Policy Center before moving to FERC, where he's been serving on a detail to Senate Energy and Natural Resources (Joe Manchin had reportedly pushed for his nomination).
  • See, the West Virginia solicitor general and lone Republican nominee, is more of a question mark. But she argued West Virginia v. EPA before the Supreme Court.

What they're saying: ENR Ranking Member John Barrasso called See an "accomplished appellate lawyer" and said Rosner has "worked constructively with my staff."

  • Manchin said he would be assessing the nominees' "commitment to American energy security."
  • Sen. John Hickenlooper told reporters: "I am eager for there to be a five-person commission. I think having a full commission adds value to what they produce."

What's next: Manchin's likely to schedule a confirmation hearing soon, but the timing of a final floor vote won't come into focus for a few weeks.

  • We don't know yet whether commissioner Allison Clements, who's not getting renominated, will leave before her term expires in June.
  • FERC nominees are often considered in pairs, and having three on the table at once could require some maneuvering in the Senate: "It strikes me as a very uncommon situation," Hartman said.
  • ClearView Energy Partners predicted that "the earliest we would expect the nominees to be seated would be in May."
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