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Don’t FERC With U.S. Energy Needs

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

In September, 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that consumer electric bills rose 15.8 percent year-over-year, the largest increase since 1981. As winter descends on the northeast, utility companies are trying to prepare customers for extreme spikes in energy rates. And while it’s easy to open your monthly bill and curse the public utility that mailed it, the truth is, many of these price hikes are the result of bad ideas and policy coming out of Washington, D.C.


Then-candidate Joe Biden proclaimed on the campaign trail, “I guarantee you we’re going to end fossil fuels.” This is one promise he is committed to keeping, it appears. His administration has throttled oil production by reducing acreage available for drilling, slowing timelines for drilling permit approvals, and essentially stopping lease sales. Most notoriously, Biden killed the Keystone XL Pipeline project, which would have moved up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily to the U.S. refineries from Canada.   

The Biden administration is even working to politicize otherwise non-political federal agencies. For example, under the Biden administration, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has been transformed from an agency “that regulates the transmission and wholesale sale of electricity and natural gas in interstate commerce and regulates the transportation of oil by pipeline in interstate commerce” to a policy shop focused on completely ending natural gas transportation. 

Last February, FERC Chairman Richard Glick put forward a regulation, which would have forced companies seeking approval for a pipeline project to account for all associated greenhouse gas emissions. Glick, and the other Democratic FERC Commissioners who backed the regulation, knew perfectly well complying with this regulation would have been nearly impossible. That was the point – and would likely have ended new permitting of natural gas pipelines. The backlash against Glick’s plan was swift and strong and he quickly converted the policy into a mere “draft.” Nevertheless, the backlash was enough to stop Biden’s plan to renominate Glick as FERC Chair. In fact,Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) played a key role in torpedoing Glick’s nomination.


Unfortunately, it is now being reported that Biden is thinking of nominating Commissioner Allison Clements to serve as the next FERC Chair. Clements would bring all of Glick’s policy baggage to the post. She supported his “draft” pipeline regulation. She would also add unresolved ethic concerns.

As a FERC Commissioner, Clements privately briefed donors to her former employer, the Energy Foundation, an environmental advocacy group. And, according to Fox News, “A top Biden administration official briefed a ‘funders only’ event hosted earlier this year by the Energy Foundation, her former employer, according to records obtained by an energy policy group. Allison Clements, a Democratic commissioner on the five-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), ultimately agreed to attend the Jan. 10 funder event despite an Energy Foundation official suggesting her presence might be ‘inappropriate,’ according to text messages and emails obtained by the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and shared with Fox News Digital.”

Other FERC emails obtained by the Institute for Energy Research (IER) via a Freedom of Information Act request “showed Clements consulted with leaders at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), another climate group she previously worked for. In April, Clements met privately with Manish Bapna, the NRDC's president and CEO, according to the records,” Fox News further reported.


In a somewhat surprising move, Biden named Commissioner Willie Phillips to serve as “acting chair” this week until a permanent chair can be nominated and confirmed. The appointment begs the question as to why not simply nominate Phillips as permanent chair. Well, Phillips is viewed as a moderate Democratic voice on the Commission. He sometimes sides with Republican Commissioners and after initially voicing support for Glick’s greenhouse gas emissions mandate, he recognized its onerous nature and backed off. 

Biden must still nominate a permanent Chair of FERC and Americans should remain concerned that he may nominate Clements. By nominating Allison Clements as Chair of FERC, President Biden would demonstrate yet again it was “not a joke” when he said he’d end fossil fuels.  This means energy costs will continue to rise and progressive activist groups will have an insider at an agency with the power to kill the natural gas industry as Americans struggle to pay utility bills.

David Williams is President of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

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