Week Ending June 21, 2019

LaFleur Says She’s Leaving in August, Without Disclosing Next Step

This Article Appears as Published in Foster Report No 3254

Cheryl A. LaFleur

Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur is leaving FERC at the end of August, she said in a Twitter post shortly after the June 20 meeting. She did not disclose where she is headed in the initial tweet or in the responses to many well-wishers on Twitter.

LaFleur is from Massachusetts and she did not participate in a couple orders earlier this year involving New England entities, fueling speculation that she would return to the New England area for a job in the energy industry. “I am looking forward to the future, but no announcements on that at this time,” she said.

LaFleur is a commissioner with the second-longest tenure since the agency changed to FERC in 1977 from the Federal Power Commission – behind William Massey, whose time exceeded 10 years from May 1993 to December 2003.

She said she will be leaving FERC “after nine amazing years,” and that the July open meeting will be her last FERC meeting. FERC does not meet in August, though it issues notational orders.

LaFleur’s term ends June 30, though FERC rules allow her to stay at the Commission until the current congressional session ends. In a May 7 speech to the Energy Bar Association she indicated that she intends to stay active in the energy sector.

Chairman Neil Chatterjee praised her as “a source of wisdom and stability” at the Commission and for her help when he came to FERC in 2017, following a period without a quorum and a backlog of orders to address. “She and her staff did not hesitate to show me the lay of the land as I stepped into this new role,” Chatterjee said in a statement.

“Though this is a loss to the FERC community, I look forward to watching her continued excellence wherever the next chapter takes her,” he said, thanking LaFleur for her service to the American people.

Many in the energy field and former FERC commissioners posted thanks on Twitter, commenting on LaFleur’s dedication and effective service at the Commission.

LaFleur has been named chairman at two different times by two different presidents, former President Barack Obama in 2013 and President Donald Trump in early 2017. The 2017 selection by Trump preceded then-chairman Norman Bay’s departure in February of that year, leaving FERC without a quorum when it was only LaFleur and former Commissioner Colette Honorable at the agency.

LaFleur has seen a lot of changes at FERC in her nine years and shared her views in a retrospective speech to the EBA annual meeting, along with reporters afterwards where she expounded on some of her remarks. She said she adopted a regulatory philosophy of doing no harm and being willing to compromise to help shape an order rather than writing separately in a dissent.

When reading option memorandums from FERC staff, she would take a centrist position. Certain commissioners would “selectively dig in” and write separately on their favorite topics or policy views, and LaFleur has done that over the years, she said at EBA.

But she is proud of the compromises among Republican and Democrats in major policy decisions such as Order 745 and Order 1000, noting that the net benefits test in Order 745 on demand response compensation was reached through agreement with former Commissioner Marc Spitzer, a Republican.

LaFleur said she did not intend to play a centrist role at FERC when she arrived in 2010, but with quite a bit of turnover among commissioners during her time “I seem to have found myself there.”

By Tom Tiernan, ttiernan@fosterreport.com

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