The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) welcomed its new Chairman, Kevin McIntyre, who replaced Acting Chairman Neil Chatterjee, on December 7, 2017. McIntyre comes to FERC after nearly three decades in private practice, and gives FERC a full slate of Commissioners for the first time since October 2015. Given his broad range of experience and lack of any stated political agenda, McIntyre’s FERC seems poised to be a no-nonsense, “get things done” Commission, and a return to normal from the colorful and often controversial Chatterjee.
As McIntyre acknowledged on a recent podcast, he has largely flown below the radar over the course of his career, which he attributed to his role of being a forceful advocate for his clients without landing him or his clients in the headlines. While he will surely be making more headlines as FERC Chairman, his lower key approach will serve as a welcome change to many in the industry following the short-lived chairmanship of Mr. Chatterjee, who was unorthodox given many of his attention-grabbing actions, including his well-publicized social media feud with actor turned activist, James Cromwell.
In addition to demeanor, McIntyre is likely to differ from Chatterjee in that he will seemingly have a more resource-neutral outlook compared to his predecessor, who was controversial given his perceived pro-coal agenda (and who may have been the first person in history to smile at the sight of coal in their Christmas stocking). McIntyre’s biography on FERC’s website notes that “[McIntyre] had an expansive FERC practice, counseling and representing clients in nearly all industry sectors, including natural gas, conventional electricity, oil, hydropower, wind power and other renewable resources, and energy marketing and trading.”
FERC held its first public meeting with McIntyre as Chairman on December 21, 2017. In a busy meeting, FERC announced several key initiatives, including a review its 1999 policies governing pipeline approvals, a new cybersecurity rulemaking, and an order to investigate fast-start generation pricing tariffs in three wholesale power markets — PJM, SPP and the New York ISO. McIntyre also noted that he did not envision taking time past the revised January 10, 2018, deadline to act on the Department of Energy’s NOPR on Grid Resilience, which is set to be a monumental event that will impact the entire United States’ power sector.
As for his own personal agenda, McIntyre mentioned during the same recent podcast that he was focused on making sure that FERC’s activities will be more transparent as a matter of good governance. Further, in listing other notable issues that FERC is set to act on, McIntyre mentioned a pending NOPR on “electricity storage”- seemingly a reference to FERC’s November 2016 NOPR related to energy storage resources’ participation in wholesale markets. Action on this NOPR could be key to unleashing greater participation of energy storage resources and other distributed energy resources across the country.
Whatever Chairman McIntyre’s own personal agenda and policy preferences, the current Commission- which is notable in its diversity of experience and comprised of two ex-hill staffers (Chatterjee and Richard Glick), a former industry executive (Cheryl LaFleur), a former state commissioner (Robert Powelson), and a seasoned energy attorney in McIntyre- is likely to be one of the most active and consequential in FERC’s history.