The Senate voted on Monday to confirm the nominations of Republican-pick Mark Christie and Democrat-pick Allison Clements to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The bipartisan pairing was nominated by the White House in July and advanced by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in November. Their confirmation means FERC will have a full quorum.
Confirming the pair also means that FERC will be a majority Republican body until June, when former Chairman Neil Chatterjee's term ends. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to choose either Clements or Commissioner Richard Glick to chair the commission.
Confirming Clements and Christie gives the energy industry a sigh of relief after years of turnover on the commission. Clements will serve on the commission until 2024 and Christie until 2025.
Glick is thought to be the favorite to chair FERC, based in part on his longer tenure at the commission. If appointed to the chair, he has said he would prioritize transmission policy, reassessing the wholesale capacity markets, and lowering market barriers for clean energy technologies. Many of these priorities are likely to see bipartisan support on the commission, according to analysts.
A wide array of industry groups including renewable energy and utility interests praised the pairing, which also received bipartisan support in the Senate. The clean energy industry said Christie's background as a Virginia State Corporation Commissioner and Clements' work as an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and industry consultant would give FERC much-needed voices in the state and clean energy space. Renewables interests have been critical of the commission for what they see as trampling state clean energy policies with some of their market orders.
"With fresh voices from clean energy and state regulatory backgrounds, we hope this reinvigorated, independent FERC will look anew at how to achieve the long overdue regulatory reforms needed to accelerate our energy transition,” said Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, in a statement.
Utility interests also praised the confirmation.
“I have known and worked with both Mark Christie and Allison Clements for many years, and given their knowledge and experience, I know they will serve the nation well as our energy grid undergoes a major transition,” said investor-owned utility trade group Edison Electric Institute's Executive Vice President Phil Moeller. Moeller previously served as a FERC commissioner.
Though the new commissioners were confirmed by both sides of the aisle, Clements missed the support of at least one key vote in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee: John Barrasso, R-Wyo., who has indicated he intends to chair the committee if the Senate retains its Republican majority in January. His office did not respond to a request for comment on why he voted against Clements.
Both nominees received the support of outgoing Chair Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Ranking Member Joe Manchin, D-W. Va.
"In a political climate that is often paralyzed by partisanship, a fully seated, bipartisan FERC is more essential than ever. I look forward to working with them both to advance an energy innovation agenda," said Manchin in a statement.