December 3, 2020

GOP Control to Linger Over Agency Key to Biden Climate Goals

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

The Biden administration will take over the executive branch on Jan. 20, but the new president won't have a Democratic majority on an independent commission that holds significant sway over one of his top priorities, a cleaner electric grid, reports Roll Call. That's because the Senate this week approved by voice vote a bipartisan pair of Trump administration nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission—which oversees energy markets, the electric grid, natural gas pipelines and large power projects like wind farms—leaving it with a 3-2 Republican majority until June 30, when the term of Neil Chatterjee, a GOP commissioner, expires.

Kate Konschnik, director of the Climate & Energy Program at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, told Roll Call that FERC largely works well because it is required to have members of both parties.

“As a result, it’s a body that works relatively well across party lines. You don’t see the same sort of monumental shifts in FERC policy from one administration to the next,” Konschnik said. She cited rulings from two GOP FERC chairmen during the Trump administration who issued final orders that hewed to a rule proposed by Norman Bay, a previous chairman and a Democrat.

Konschnik said FERC could take into account greenhouse gas emissions when reviewing pipelines as a way of grappling with climate change.