Energy, Environment

White House Foot Dragging Forces Energy Agency to Stop Working

No Quorum, No Government Business

FOLLOW-UP REPORT: Trump’s inaction on appointments leaves the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with too few members to do anything.

Donald Trump’s failure to appoint people to government positions has forced a powerful federal commission which wields enormous influence over the economy to cancel future meetings.

Out of nearly 700 significant positions requiring Senate confirmation, fewer than 40 people have been nominated and less than a dozen confirmed.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said on Feb. 8 that all future commission meetings are canceled for lack of a quorum. Only two members serve on the five-member commission.

The canceled meetings include a joint session with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees electric power plants fueled with uranium, that was scheduled for Feb 23.

Without a quorum, the commission cannot take actions on manipulations of electricity markets, the rates charged by monopoly pipeline owners or request to raise or lower the level of water in reservoirs with hydroelectric dams.

Trump created the problem of not enough members to conduct business when he replaced Norman Bay as FERC chairman and elevated Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to FERC chairman. Bay got the signal and resigned effective Feb. 3. That left the commission with only two members.

Bay was an advocate of enforcing rules that protect consumers while LaFleur, the former CEO of an Investor-owned electric utility, said she saw nothing amiss In New England electricity market auctions that sharply dramatically raise prices. A federal appeals court judge has expressed bewilderment at her conduct.

On the campaign trail promised to run the government in a business-like fashion.

ACTION BOX / What you can do about it

Call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to publicly prod the administration to make appointments to keep the government running efficiently. The White House offers a web tool for complaints and comments. We don’t know if any attention is paid, but if many people use the same subject line it may get noticed. We suggest: Get to Work Making Appointments!

February 9, 2017