Democrats Urge Trump to Restore Quorum at FERC by Nominating Both Republicans and Democrats to the Commission

Pairing Republican and Democratic Nominees Consistent with Commission’s Long-Standing Tradition of Bipartisanship

March 8, 2017

Download a PDF of the senators’ letter here.

Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and 15 other Democrats wrote President Trump regarding several openings on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that are preventing the commission from fully functioning.

FERC has a long tradition of bipartisanship; most votes within the commission are unanimous. In 2016, less than two percent of the orders issued included a dissenting opinion. The senators said: “We hope that your nominees will be prepared to continue this tradition, and we intend to review them through that lens during the confirmation process.”

In addition to the three vacant commission seats, a fourth seat currently held by Commissioner Colette Honorable is scheduled to expire on June 30. By law, not more than three members of FERC may be members of the same political party. Historically, both Republican and Democratic presidents have nominated people recommended by the Senate leader of the party that does not hold the presidency. “We expect you will honor this long-standing practice in nominating individuals to serve on the commission,” the senators write.

FERC lost its quorum on February 3 when Commissioner Norman Bay resigned after President Trump replaced him as chair. Bay had told the president’s transition team that he would resign when the president named a new chair of the commission. A quorum of at least three commissioners is required before decisions that require a vote of the commissioners can be issued.

The senators believe that the FERC nominees must be committed to FERC’s core missions: “We write to request that you restore the quorum by nominating individuals that will honor the commission’s statutory missions to ensure that jurisdictional rates are just and reasonable, to prohibit market manipulation, to protect electric grid reliability, to oversee energy infrastructure development in a balanced manner and to provide for the licensing and safe operation of many of our nation’s hydroelectric dams.”

FERC plays a significant role in our nation’s energy economy. The commission oversees the rates and terms associated with wholesale electric sales and the interstate transmission of electricity and natural gas and oil via pipelines. FERC also has the responsibility for determining whether certain infrastructure is needed and consistent with the public interest. The commission also is responsible for hydroelectric dam licensing and safety—an issue brought into the spotlight with the recent flooding at the Oroville Dam.

Sen. Cantwell is ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has sole jurisdiction over FERC nominations. The committee reviews and acts on nominations to the commission. Stay tuned for hearings on future nominations on the committee’s website or on our Twitter page (@EnergyDems).

The letter is signed by U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Joe Manchin III (D-W.V.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Download a PDF of the complete letter here.