FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre was not present at the October 18 open meeting, and unlike the September meeting did not participate by voting on consent agenda items.
McIntyre also missed the September meeting, but at that meeting he recorded votes on agenda items and Commissioner Neil Chatterjee read a statement from the chairman that he “fully intended to be present. However, my ongoing recovery prevents me from being here in person today.”
Chatterjee, who presided at the October 18 meeting in McIntyre’s absence, did not have any statement from McIntyre and FERC officials declined comment on his absence and lack of participation on agenda orders.
“My prayers are with him and his family,” Chatterjee said at the meeting. Commissioners Cheryl LaFleur and Richard Glick also sent warm wishes for McIntyre’s recovery and expressed hope that he is back at FERC soon.
McIntyre has experienced significant health challenges since he was tapped by the White House to be FERC chairman, overcoming a brain tumor and surgery in 2017, with post-operative treatment, and then a fall in July 2018 where he broke several vertebrae in his back. At the open meeting in July, he had an arm in a sling, and in a later podcast said he was “on the mend” and that his limited mobility had not affected his ability to get the Commission’s work done.
That changed a bit with his lack of voting on meeting agenda items, and the dearth of information from official channels at the Commission has prompted speculation about McIntyre’s future at FERC. Whether he might step down as chairman and remain at the Commission until a replacement is named or stay on with no change, or take some type of hiatus while he recovers are among the possibilities, with others mentioned by sources who did not want to be identified.
Sources expect to see some type of an announcement from either McIntyre or FERC soon, but they admit that is speculation based on a belief that the White House has been aware of the situation and planning to address it in some way.
With the Department of Energy’s Bernard McNamee nominated by the White House to fill the spot of former Commissioner Robert Powelson, if McIntyre is not chairman the White House could name a different commissioner as chairman.
Some sources have had meetings scheduled with McIntyre over the past month or so, with him participating by phone while working remotely, and others have met with FERC staffers instead of McIntyre, not knowing about his presence ahead of time.
“The chairman has been upfront about his health issues, and people should respect his privacy and worry more about him and his family rather speculating about palace intrigue, and the where votes may or may not line up in the future,” said William Scherman, partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and former general counsel at FERC.
FERC approved a few orders by notation before the meeting that were scheduled to be addressed at the meeting, including a major order on power transmission return on equity issues in response to a court remand where Glick did not participate. McIntyre voted on that issue in a 3-0 decision, along with another one involving an LNG storage facility in New England.
On matters where McIntyre is not voting, the Commission has Glick and LaFleur – both Democrats – participating with Chatterjee, a Republican.
At a recent natural gas conference, Sen. Bill Cassidy (D-La.) commented on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee postponing the confirmation hearing of McNamee to November 15, after the mid-term elections where the Republican majority in the Senate might change. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) understands the importance of having appointee positions filled while a Republican majority is in place in the Senate, Cassidy said.
By Tom Tiernan TTiernan@fosterreport.com