Commissioner James Danly named FERC Chairman

Published on November 06, 2020 by Hil Anderson

James Danly

James Danly was named chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by President Trump late on Nov. 5, less than a year after he had been appointed to the commission, replacing Neil Chatterjee, who will remain with the commission into next year.

Danly, who was previously FERC’s general counsel and was named commissioner in March 2020, does not have to be confirmed by the Senate; however, his time on the job could be limited if a Democratic administration moves into the White House in January and installs its own person.

Danly thanked Chatterjee in a statement issued by FERC for his “commitment to protecting competitive markets” and for specific achievements including updating the PURPA rule and expediting the approvals of liquefied natural gas export terminals and other energy infrastructure projects.

“It has been my utmost pleasure to have served under Neil Chatterjee, both as General Counsel and alongside him as Commissioner,” Danly said. “I have learned a tremendous amount from his expertise and insight, and I am proud of the work we’ve been able to accomplish under his thoughtful watch.”

Chatterjee said, too, he was proud of his tenure and looked forward to working with the new chairman in 2021. “We’ve faced challenges like overcoming the significant no-quorum backlog to grappling with an unprecedented global pandemic,” he said. “But we’ve had a great many achievements as well.”

The reason for the unexpected change in midst of Election Day vote counting was not revealed by FERC. There was some speculation in the media that Chatterjee had sealed his fate last month when the board released a policy statement claiming a role for FERC in the establishment of carbon pricing within multi-state wholesale power markets. Carbon pricing implemented by individual states as a means of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the power sector has drawn criticism from industrial customers because it would likely raise retail electric bills.

Chatterjee, however, said FERC’s Oct. 15 policy statement was necessary as more states adopt aggressive carbon-reduction strategies and targets. “As states actively seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within their regions, carbon pricing has emerged as an important, market-based tool that has wide support from across sectors,” Chatterjee said last month. “The Commission is not an environmental regulator, but we may be called upon to review proposals that incorporate a state-determined state carbon price into these regional markets. These rules could improve the efficiency and transparency of the organized wholesale markets by providing a market-based method to reduce GHG emissions.”

After learning of Danly’s promotion, Chatterjee speculated that the move could have been retaliation for his approach to carbon pricing. “I have obviously been out there promoting a conservative market-based approach to carbon mitigation and sending signals the commission is open to considering a carbon price, and perhaps that led to this,” Chatterjee told the Washington Examiner.