Energy

Energy projects stranded in regulatory limbo after vacancy on U.S. panel

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission faces indefinite freeze of most major business without quorum of commissioners

Commissioner Norman C. Bay , Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

WASHINGTON, DC — “The fates of several gas pipelines and at least two big electric utility mergers have been thrown into question in the wake of a high level resignation at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Norman Bay, chairman of the obscure but vital government agency, said he would step down on Feb. 3, leaving just two out of five commissioner slots filled.

FERC, which is tasked with overseeing the U.S. power grid, gas pipelines, gas export plants and a host of other energy infrastructure, is now staring down an indefinite freeze of most major business by the end of this week. FERC cannot permit energy projects unless it has a quorum of at least three commissioners.

…Relative to other federal agencies, FERC usually goes about its business without much scrutiny from Washington, but the reaction following Mr. Bay’s announcement was swift and widespread.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, called for the FERC posts to be filled fast. The Senate must vote to confirm nominees put forward by the president, but Congress is also dealing with a series of votes on other, much more high-profile nominees, such as Mr. Trump’s cabinet members.

Most longtime observers of the agency say it could be several months before any new commissioner is confirmed.”

Christopher M. Matthews and Amy Harder, The Wall Street Journal

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