On February 8, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a press release cancelling the monthly meeting to be held in February. Additionally, FERC stated that all forthcoming monthly meetings are pre-emptively cancelled until further notice. Please see below for a brief overview of recent developments at FERC leading to this action.
On February 3, 2017, the former Chairman of FERC, Norman Bay, officially stepped down from the agency. Following his departure, FERC has only two standing Commissioners. In order to have a quorum—the minimum number of members serving to transact agency business—FERC requires three Commissioners. As such, FERC lacks the authority to issue decisions requiring approval from the Commissioners until such time as at least one additional Commissioner is confirmed by the Senate.
President Donald Trump is tasked with appointing Commissioners to FERC, as well as ultimately selecting a new Chairman. The general consensus from industry observers and political insiders indicates that such an appointment may be at least two months away. However, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) recently discussed the matter with the President and received assurances that it would be a priority agenda item.
In the interim period, nonetheless, FERC will continue to operate without a quorum. On February 3, 2017, FERC issued an order delegating authority to staff, primarily to carry out certain obligations under statutes such as the Federal Power Act, Natural Gas Act, and Interstate Commerce Act. By delegating this authority, FERC staff is charged to oversee rate and other filings (in order to prevent such filings from going into effect without review), institute settlement judge procedures in contested rate filings, grant waivers and extensions of time and accept uncontested settlements. FERC staff is granted this expanded authority effective February 4, 2017 until the time a quorum is re-established.
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