FERC Staff Discuss the Impact of the Commission’s Lack of a Quorum

02/22/2017

Much of the normal business conducted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) continues unabated according to four senior FERC officials from the Office of General Counsel. Those observations were made during a special Energy Bar Association (EBA) event, Without A Quorum, How Will FERC Operate? Senior FERC Staff Answer Your Questions, held by webinar on February 22, 2017. The FERC officials included David Morenoff, General Counsel, Larry Greenfield, Associate General Counsel, Jacqueline Holmes, Associate General Counsel, and John Katz, Deputy Associate General Counsel. The webinar was hosted by Dentons US LLP and was moderated by Emma Hand, EBA's President.

With the resignation of FERC Chairman Norman Bay on February 3, the Commission was left with only two sitting commissioners and has been operating without a quorum necessary to issue significant orders or make determinations on pending infrastructure projects. On February 3, the Commission vested its staff with additional powers to tide it over until President Donald Trump fills the empty seats. The new delegation allowed staff to continue its regulatory responsibilities and included some additional authority for staff to rule on rate and other filings under the Federal Power Act, Natural Gas Act and Interstate Commerce Act. No delegations could extend beyond 14 days following re-establishment of quorum and actions taken by a delegated authority would be subject to rehearing by commissioners.

The FERC officials noted that while FERC commissioners rule on as many as 1,200 orders annually, FERC staff also issue as many as 5,000 uncontested or non-controversial orders each year. The officials discussed a range of pre-existing delegation authority already vested to staff prior to the Commission's lack of a quorum. These included uncontested hydropower and gas licenses, amendments, surrender applications, transfer applications, motions on extension of time and ruling on inadequate applications. Nor did a lack of a quorum impact FERC emergency functions to protect human safety or property for LNG facilities and hydropower projects.

An audio recording of the webinar and presentation handouts will be available through EBA's online store.