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By Rebecca Kern
Energy attorney Kevin McIntyre, co-head of the energy practice at the Jones Day law firm, was tapped to be chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has been without a quorum since February.
But the independent agency that approves natural gas pipelines may not be at full strength until September, an industry analyst told Bloomberg BNA.
President Donald Trump announced July 13 his intent to nominate McIntyre, a Republican, to serve a term ending June 30, 2018, which is the remainder of the term of former FERC Chairman Norman Bay. McIntyre also was named to serve a five-year term from June 30, 2018, to June 30, 2023. Currently, the agency is down to one commissioner—Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur (D)—after Colette Honorable (D) left when her term expired June 30. When fully staffed, FERC has five commissioners.
If confirmed by the Senate, McIntyre would be one of at least 14 lawyers from Jones Day who have been picked to join the Trump administration, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. They include Donald McGahn, who joined as White House counsel in January.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hopes to hold a hearing on McIntyre before the August recess, depending on when the White House formally sends the panel the nomination, a committee aide told Bloomberg BNA.
Trump also has nominated two other Republicans to FERC—Robert Powelson, a member of the Pennsylvania Utility Commission, and Neil Chatterjee, a longtime energy staffer for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Both were favorably reported out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June.
McConnell has scheduled floor time for the revised health care bill the week of July 17, and there is no guidance beyond that on the timing for votes on Powelson’s or Chatterjee’s nominations, David Popp, McConnell’s communications director, told Bloomberg BNA.
Without agreements on vote timing between McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), FERC’s quorum may not be restored until after Labor Day, Christi Tezak, managing director of research at ClearView Energy Partners LLC, told Bloomberg BNA.
She estimated FERC’s backlog of natural gas pipeline projects ready for commission approval could grow from at least $4 billion today to more than $17 billion by the end of October.
McIntyre has worked at Jones Day as a partner since 1999, and previously as an associate from 1994 to 1998, advising clients that include electric and natural gas utilities, and oil and gas pipelines. His practice includes compliance and enforcement matters, energy marketing and trading, market-based rates and other competition issues, tariff compliance and administration, energy exports and electric reliability standards, according to the firm’s website.
“His client base is predominately southeastern utilities, and he’s done a lot of gas work. So I think he certainly has broad expertise, which I think is helpful,” Tezak said.
Tezak also said McIntyre’s nomination is likely a Trump administration effort to nominate someone with both regulated and deregulated market experience.
“It doesn’t surprise me to see to someone with some more experience in the traditionally structured markets in the Southeast,” Tezak said. She also said having an industry practitioner on FERC seems to be consistent with the administration “trying to be constructive towards investment and business growth.”
Sheila Slocum Hollis, a partner at Duane Morris LLP who has worked with McIntyre through the Energy Bar Association, spoke to his 20-plus years of experience. “He’s written extensively on electric power-related issues and power purchase issues. He’s the kind of lawyer that makes up the elite of the energy bar,” she told Bloomberg BNA.
Likewise, William Scherman, a partner at Gibson Dunn and a former general counsel at FERC who has known McIntyre for 20 years, said McIntyre has comprehensive energy market knowledge.
“He has a deep understanding of how these markets work and I think that’s going to be very helpful to the commission, because it’s no surprise to anybody that addressing the problems in the organized markets is going to be a high priority for the commission,” he told Bloomberg BNA.
FERC held a two-day, staff-led technical conference in May discussing the growing tensions between state policies and how they interact and, in some cases, conflict with the organized wholesale energy markets, which FERC oversees.
In addition to Powelson and Chatterjee, Trump announced his intent on June 28 to nominate Richard Glick, a Senate Energy and Natural Resources general counsel, to fill Honorable’s seat. If all four are confirmed, the commission would be returned to a five-person panel.
Marc Spitzer, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson and a former FERC commissioner, said the nominees’ backgrounds as a state commissioner, Capitol Hill staffer and private-sector attorney would provide a diversity of perspectives.
“I think having a mix is a good thing,” he told Bloomberg BNA.
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