Senate approves two bipartisan picks for FERC commissioners

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The US Senate has approved two candidates for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that were nominated by President Donald Trump, bringing the agency to a full complement of five commissioners.

Incoming commissioners Republican Mark Christie and Democrat Allison Clement, who were voted in by the Senate on Monday (30 November), will give FERC a 3-2 Republican majority until at least mid-2021, when commissioner and former chairman Neil Chatterjee’s term ends.

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Christie has served the Virginia State Corporation Commission for 16 years, while Clements is the founder and president of Goodgrid LLC, a Utah-based energy policy and strategy consulting company. Before this, Clemens was the director of energy markets at the non-profit Energy Foundation, and previously worked as the corporate counsel of the Natural Resources Defense Council for 10 years, and as director of its Sustainable FERC Project. They will serve their terms through to 2025 and 2024 respectively.

This is the first time in two years that Trump's administration has nominated a candidate from each party for the agency. In October last year the President nominated Republican James Danly to fill a FERC vacancy while declining Clemens for a separate one, giving the FERC a 3-1 Republican majority and threatening to politicise a traditionally bipartisan governing body.

The agency has previously been accused of promoting fossil fuels after upholding a provision in February that was said to be hindering green energy’s involvement in New York state’s capacity market.

The move was welcomed by the American Council on Renewable Energy, which said that an “invigorated, independent” Commission would be more motivated to make regulatory reforms that would accelerate the US’ transition to renewable energy.

Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of ACORE, said he hopes Clemens and Christie will “address the significant wholesale energy market and electric transmission challenges facing our nation.”

“With fresh voices from clean energy and state regulatory backgrounds, we hope this reinvigorated, independent FERC will look anew at how to achieve the long overdue regulatory reforms needed to accelerate our energy transition.”

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