Donald Trump has appointed two Republicans, Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson, to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The nominees must be confirmed by the Senate before they can serve. FERC can have a maximum of three members from the same political party of their five-member board. The Trump Administration is working to stack FERC to make it Republican-majority. This way FERC can rubberstamp the hundreds of dangerous fossil fuel projects across the country.
“The fossil fool in the White House is at it again. He denied climate change, approved offshore drilling, and is not nominating these coal and gas industry puppets to FERC.
Donald Trump is trying to stack FERC with people who are more than a rubberstamp for the fossil fuel industries. They are actually cheerleaders for the industries they’re supposed to regulate. They will try to limit public review and oversight, stop environmental reviews, and other ways to push through these projects. They are walking conflicts of interest that care more about the oil and gas industries than the people or environment of our country. This could open up a floodgate of approvals for pipelines such as PennEast and other projects across the country. These appointments have sent a chill up people’s spines who care about the environment or climate change,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “He’s appointed Mr. Coal and Mr. Fracking to FERC and they could eliminate important protections and approvals to make these projects more viable. With these appointees, Trump is telling the environment to go FERC themselves.”
Robert Powelson has been on the Public Utility Commission of Pennsylvania since 2008 and was its chairman from 2011 to 2015. He also currently serves as president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. He also previously led the Chester County, Pa., Chamber of Business and Industry. He has a very pro-pipeline history with obvious bias towards the gas industry.
“Robert Powelson has clear contempt for the public. He has even been quoted as comparing pipelines opponents to ‘Jihadists’, trying to smear them as being extremists while using a racist term. He is unfit to be a member of FERC. Powelson was a member of the Greater Philadelphia Energy Action Team, whose goal is to lobby and promote pipelines and expand the energy industry including refiners. He was a member of this Team lobbying for pipelines and fossil fuels, he was still serving on the PUC. He only resigned after people raised ethical concerns of his conflict of interest. He is ethically challenged, morally bankrupt and a political puppet for the pipeline companies,” said Jeff Tittel.
Trump’s second nominee, Neil Chatterjee is an energy policy advisory to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He’s been a lobbyist for National Rural Electric Cooperative
Association. Chatterjee has also worked for House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce and the House Ways and Means Committee.
“Neil Chatterjee is nothing but a shill for the coal industry. He’s been a leader in the fight to undo Obama’s Clean Power Plan. He has previously worked for very pro-coal and pro-fossil fuel groups. He now works for McConnell as the lead person to get the Senate to block action on climate change and clean air. Chatterjee is a climate denier and will be another puppet for the industries, harming our clean water, environment, and open spaces. He’s a blatant lobbyist for the coal industry and has been under an ethical cloud just like Powelson,” said Jeff Tittel.
The PennEast Pipeline would threaten the entire Valley including 91 acres of wetlands and over 44 miles of forest; over 1,600 acres’ total. This is a serious project that will affect many people on both sides of the river. PennEast Pipeline also does not even have enough information for necessary permits required from NJDEP. The PennEast Pipeline violates the Clean Water Act and cannot meet the criteria for 404 permits. Also, we believe that this pipeline cannot meet the requirement for a 401 water quality permit. The reason is because of the amount of high quality streams, wetlands, and rivers it is crossing through. Many of these streams carry anti-degradation criteria. The route will cut areas with steep slopes having a bigger impact on streams because of siltation and runoff.
“If FERC regains a quorum, they will once again have the power to approve dangerous pipelines and projects such as PennEast and the Northeast Expansion Supply Enhancement Project. The DEP has thrown out PennEast’s permits because there’s not enough information on 65% of the property. When FERC gets a quorum, they could give PennEast a Certificate of Necessity to allow PennEast to go on people’s property and get the data they need for the permits. They could then approve this dangerous project,” said Jeff Tittel. “That is why we will work to block Trump’s nominations to the three open vacancies to delay the process even further. The nomination process will take at least take 60 days for the Senate to confirm, but if our Senators work to block them it could be delayed even more.”
If confirmed, Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson would bring FERC’s size to three commissioners, giving them a quorum for the first time in three months. Previous Commissioner Norman Bay quit after President Trump replaced him as leader of FERC with Cheryl LaFleur. Commissioner Colette Honorable announced her retirement soon after. The longer we can block these nominations, the longer that FERC goes without a quorum to approve these projects.
“We must come together to stop Trump’s nominations that will work for the fossil fuel industry instead of the people of the United States. New Jersey has over fifteen pipeline proposals and even more compressors stations that would do unnecessary harm to the environment including PennEast and the Garden State Expansion. We need to stop these fossil fools from gaining power inside FERC. If they do, there will be a pro-gas Republican bias leading this important agency,”said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We will be launching a campaign to get Senators Booker and Menendez to block these unfit and unqualified nominations and to filibuster if need be. The stakes are high for our communities and our environment. The future of our country depends on blocking these nominations.”