Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., said he is not comfortable holding a hearing on the renomination of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Richard Glick, which means the Democratic commissioner’s tenure is likely to end Dec. 31 after more than five years.
Without a hearing this Congress at the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Manchin, Glick will have to step down when it adjourns at the end of the year. That would leave FERC short a member for some time, meaning potentially controversial proposals would go into effect if the regulator deadlocks in a 2-to-2 vote.
“Chairman Manchin was not comfortable holding a hearing,” said committee spokesman Sam Runyon.
Manchin’s announcement came just days after he sparred with President Joe Biden over comments Biden made about shutting down coal plants.
“Rich is paying the price for the president’s absolutely tone-deaf comments about shutting down coal plants and drilling,” said former FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee, who served under President Donald Trump.
The move was criticized by some commission watchers, including former Republican Commissioner Nora Mead Brownell, who has long spoken out against the politicization of the independent regulatory agency.
“When you really think about what FERC does, it’s all about infrastructure and economic development and environmental progress, and they’re all one and the same,” Brownell said. “We treat them differently, but they are all one and the same. So to create uncertainty is to drive away capital, drive up the cost of capital — ultimately customers pay a price, and ultimately the country doesn’t get what it needs in an efficient way. I am horrified and disappointed, and I think people like Manchin aren’t fulfilling their obligations to serve this country.”
Among the more controversial items Glick has tried to move forward were changes in how FERC certifies natural gas infrastructure, with the goal of formalizing a review of its impact on greenhouse gas emissions. That led to opposition from Manchin, industry and Republicans on the commission and Capitol Hill, before Glick ultimately decided to withdraw the proposals. They are now pending before FERC as drafts and could not move forward with a 2-2 split.
The plans will either need to be revised to win a Republican vote or await another Democratic nominee next year. Brownell said she disagreed with the policy, but ultimately the courts could have the final say on the matter.
“I hope rational minds will step up and defend the independence of the agency and not allow this utter disrespect for process and law to continue to reign,” Brownell said. “It just is not healthy.”
Glick joined FERC in August 2017, and Biden tapped him as chairman in January 2021. He is a former general counsel for Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Prior to that, he was vice president of government affairs for Balboa, Spain-based international utility company Iberdrola’s renewable energy, electric and gas utility and its natural gas storage businesses in the United States. Glick was previously director of government affairs for PPM Energy and for PacifiCorp and also served as a senior policy adviser to former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.