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Trump names 2 to serve on embattled energy panel

Posted May 9

— President Donald Trump has tapped an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a veteran Pennsylvania regulator to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Only two commissioners currently serve on the five-member panel, leaving it without a quorum and unable to make decisions on interstate pipelines and other projects worth billions of dollars.

Trump nominated Neil Chatterjee, McConnell's longtime energy adviser, and Robert Powelson, a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, to the federal panel late Monday. Both are Republicans. The nominations require Senate approval.

The energy agency has been without a quorum since early February, and lawmakers from both parties have expressed alarm at the prolonged vacancies.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., applauded the nominations and urged the Senate to move quickly to approve them.

"These two highly qualified candidates will provide the needed quorum at the agency and ensure Republican leadership so that FERC can issue final orders dealing with natural gas pipeline projects, electricity rate plans and approve other energy infrastructure projects in a timely manner," Inhofe said in a statement.

Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a power-industry group, said it was essential that FERC regain its quorum, citing Trump's expressed goals to build infrastructure and stimulate energy production.

Segal called Chatterjee smart and open-minded and said he "keeps a friendly attitude even when matters can be contentious."

Powelson, a seasoned regulator from a state that has seen a huge increase in natural gas production, also serves as president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, giving him a "national regulatory vantage point that will be useful" in his new role, Segal said.

"All in all, two good picks — and just in time," Segal said.

Democrat Cheryl LaFleur is the commission's acting chairwoman, but Trump is widely expected to name a Republican to replace her. LaFleur would still serve on the commission.

Democrat Colette Honorable has said she won't seek another term when hers expires in June, giving Trump yet another appointee.

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