Manchin Questions Nominees On FERC’s Role In Ensuring “Reliable, Dependable And Affordable Energy”

September 16, 2020

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks, please click here.

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning, please click here.

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to consider the nominations of Ms. Allison Clements and Mr. Mark C. Christie to be Members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ranking Member of the Committee, highlighted the importance of a fully seated FERC and expressed his support for the bipartisan pairing of nominees to fill its two vacancies.

“I am pleased that the President has kept with longstanding tradition and sent us a balanced, bipartisan pairing. First, because I think it is critical that we fill the two vacancies on the Commission and return to a fully seated FERC, and second, because I think both of these nominees are very well qualified for these important jobs and should enjoy bipartisan support,” Ranking Member Manchin said. “When Congress established the Department of Energy and put most energy functions in the hands of the Secretary of Energy, it wisely insisted that the regulatory and ratemaking authorities of the former Federal Power Commission remain in the hands of a five-member commission. Collectively, five commissioners will always bring to the table more wisdom, more knowledge, more life experience, and more diverse views than the wisest, most knowledgeable, and most experienced energy czar we could ever find.”

Ranking Member Manchin questioned the nominees on the role FERC has in maintaining and overseeing the reliability of the nation’s grid system.

“I’ve always said that people want reliable, dependable, and affordable energy and they have been receiving that for quite some time. But now, it is a bit sparse and people are concerned. So, on the reliability of the grid system, is that based on cost or based on the energy that we are able to supply to ensure that the people have dependable access? How do you all look at that from FERC’s evaluation,” Ranking Member Manchin asked.

“Reliability is a huge issue for us. Americans expect electric power on a 24/7, 365-day basis. They don’t want hours or days where there is no power, it is essential to modern life. As a regulator, you are very sensitive to that, so reliability is one of your most important duties. Reliability in America is done largely at the state level, because it is the states who approve generating plants. FERCs role is to regulate the RTOs. And for those states that are in RTOs, FERC has a very large role in ensuring those RTOs are doing their job, ensuring that the transmission planning and the generating planning is being done properly, and making sure that reliability is deliverable 24/7,” Mr. Christie said.

“The reliability authority that FERC has under Section 215 of the Federal Power Act is critical. Whether or not the risk to reliability comes from the kind of weather events you have described or from a cyber-attack, that risk is real and important. I spent a year on a National Academy of Sciences committee thinking about how to ensure the resilience of the system in those types of events, and there is always a tradeoff. There is a tradeoff between costs and reliability benefits. So the question is, in order to ensure that FERC is meeting its obligations and protecting U.S. citizens going forward, what are the right, most efficient, and effective investments that the system needs to make to protect customers and provide reliable, affordable power,” Ms. Clements said.

To watch the hearing in full, please click here.