Biden’s energy and pipeline regulator pick will drive green transition

By Stephen Cunningham and Naureen S. Malik on 1/22/2021

(Bloomberg) --Richard Glick, one of two Democrats on the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has been tapped by President Joe Biden to lead the agency set to play a pivotal role in the president’s goal to achieve a 100% clean grid by 2035.

Glick, who formerly worked for utility giants Iberdrola and PacifiCorp., was widely seen as Biden’s obvious choice to lead FERC, which is responsible for approving natural gas infrastructure and overseeing electricity markets.

“This is an important moment to make significant progress on the transition to a clean energy future,” Glick said in a statement on Twitter announcing Biden’s intention to nominate him as FERC chairman.​

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Richard Glick
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Richard Glick

I'm honored President Joe Biden has selected me to be @FERC Chairman, thank you Mr. @POTUS. This is an important moment to make significant progress on the transition to a clean energy future. I look forward to working with my colleagues to tackle the many challenges ahead!

— Rich Glick (@RichGlickFERC) January 21, 2021

​FERC is an independent agency that oversees the power grid, approves utility mergers and grants permits for gas pipelines. In recent years, the agency has been accused of becoming increasingly political and has faced calls to give greater consideration to climate change when approving projects.

As chairman, Glick can push for more comprehensive environmental reviews and prioritize projects to build power transmission lines, which can pave the way for more wind and solar farms.

“He can also accelerate the clean energy transition while retaining FERC’s fuel neutrality by simply pursuing pro-market electricity reforms that let all resources compete on their merits,” said Devin Hartman, director of energy and environmental policy at the conservative policy shop R Street Institute, in a statement.

Since his appointment as a commissioner in late 2017, Glick has raised concerns that the agency hasn’t adequately considered climate change and impacts on poor communities when it makes decisions about fossil fuel projects. He was also an outspoken critic of FERC’s weakening enforcement insight, which culminated in a record-low number of energy-market manipulation cases last year.

“Paired with a Democratic-leaning Congress and a climate-thinking Biden administration, Glick may hope to formalize a more comprehensive form of environmental review for pipeline certificates,” BloombergNEF analyst Brianna Lazerwitz said in an email. “FERC may gain purview to evaluate the environmental impacts of natural gas consumption, and not just the impact of building the pipeline itself.”

While Glick will hold the gavel and control the agenda, Republicans will hold a majority on the five-member panel until the middle of the year, when Biden can appoint a new commissioner.

Even so, Republican Neil Chatterjee, whom President Donald Trump demoted from chairman to commissioner in November, could become the swing vote in key areas. The former aide to Senator Mitch McConnell has been embracing decarbonization, endorsed carbon pricing and supported efforts to integrate more renewables and battery technology.

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