Week Ending October 18, 2019

Chatterjee Denies Exit Story, Vows to Serve Full Term

This Article Appears as Published in Foster Report No 3270
Chatterjee Denies Exit Story, Vows to Serve Full Term

FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee vowed to fill out his full term, which extends into 2021, and denied that he may leave early, strongly refuting a Politico story that had unnamed sources indicating he might step down early.

During an October 17 media briefing after the FERC open meeting and in posts on Twitter, Chatterjee said he takes his role seriously and vowed to complete his term. He denied rumors that he would run for political office in Kentucky or Virginia and said if offered a job before his term ends in June 2021 he would not take it.

He said the commitment to the President, Senate, and stakeholders to complete his term is strong, especially with the White House nomination and Senate confirmation process taking a good amount of effort and time. He referred to a lot of turnover among commissioners and chairmen recently that has had an impact on morale at FERC headquarters, and he does not want to contribute to that uncertainty in commissioners’ status.

In the recording of the interview with Politico, Chatterjee said he wanted to be clear and unequivocal that “I am absolutely not going to depart early.” The unnamed sources in the story were providing gossip and speculation, with a headline and thrust of the story that is misleading, he said.

“I intend to stay in the fight,” he joked at the briefing, referring to a slogan for the Washington Nationals baseball team in the postseason. Chatterjee was sporting a Nationals baseball hat at the meeting in honor of former Chairman Kevin McIntyre, a big Nationals fan, and presided at an October 11 ceremony to name the meeting room after McIntyre.

To fill the empty seat that was created by McIntyre’s death, the White House on October 15 said it sent the nomination of FERC General Counsel James Danly to the Senate. Chatterjee acknowledged that the President can designate a new chairman at FERC at any time, and that he has not heard any discussion about Danly perhaps being named chairman.

Chatterjee said he hopes Danly is confirmed by the Senate quickly, but FERC can function well even with the occasional recusal from Glick due to ethics concerns and his former employer in the power sector. He expressed confidence in Danly and dismissed grumblings about his inexperience.

Concerns have been raised about FERC not voting on some key power market items due to the minimum of three commissioners and the recusal of Glick, at least for another month or so, until the end of November. At that point, Glick will have been at FERC for two years and the ethics pledge allows voting on matters where there is no conflict of interest or recusal needed due to previous employers.

When speaking with reporters at different events recently and in the recorded interview with Politico, Chatterjee noted that when there were Republican vacancies at FERC in the second term of former President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell forwarded the paperwork and vetting of Chatterjee to be nominated, but the Obama White House did not nominate him. From late 2015 into 2016, Obama chose not to nominate him, and the Commission went to three Democrats after former commissioner Tony Clark left the agency in the fall of 2016, Chatterjee said.

When reporters ask about the unusual choice of President Donald Trump not pairing the nomination of Danly with a Democrat, Chatterjee refers to the period in 2016 when he was not nominated and the lack of media coverage about concerns to productivity at FERC.

While he hopes Danly can be confirmed soon, FERC has a good strategy in place to deal with possible recusals from Glick, Chatterjee said. “We’re fine with the three of us,” he said, referring to Glick and Commissioner Bernard McNamee.

By Tom Tiernan ttiernan@fosterreport.com

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