Week ahead: Senate picks up pace on Trump energy nominees

Week ahead: Senate picks up pace on Trump energy nominees
© Greg Nash

The energy industry's long wait for a fully staffed regulatory board could soon be over.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiEmboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - DC prepares for Saturday of festivals & Jan. 6 demonstration Republican leaders misjudged Jan. 6 committee MORE (R-Alaska) said last week that the Senate could vote soon on two more nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Murkowski's committee heard from President Trump's two remaining FERC nominees during a hearing on Thursday: Richard Glick, a Democrat, and Kevin McIntyre, Trump's pick to chair the commission.

"My hope is that we might be able to get them out ... maybe a week from now, which would be great," Murkowski said.


The Senate confirmed Trump's first two FERC nominees, Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson, by unanimous consent votes before the August recess. The vote gave the commission its first quorum since February.

The Energy Committee's Thursday hearing also featured Ryan Nelson, the nominee to be the Interior Department's solicitor; and Joseph Balash, tapped to be Interior's assistant secretary for land and minerals. Votes on those two are likely to come at the same time.

Congress sent President Trump a bipartisan bill appropriating more than $15 billion for Hurricane Harvey relief on Friday, but disaster aid will be at the front of lawmakers' minds in the coming week, as well.

Hurricane Irma is expected to make landfall on Sunday in Florida and push inland by Monday, meaning the state, its residents and federal disaster relief officials will be forced to reckon with another expensive recovery effort following a severe storm. As of Friday, Irma is a Category 4 storm, and is likely to be the second major hurricane to strike the United States in less than three weeks.

The House will look to pass a massive appropriations package for dozens of government programs next week, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department.

After returning from their August recess, lawmakers began debate on the bill, which would spend $31.4 billion on the EPA and Interior. The Appropriations Committee approved the bill in July.

Chatterjee is scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce committee on Tuesday about the reliability of the electric grid. The hearing comes more than two weeks after the Energy Department (DOE) released a report blaming the decline of baseload power -- a reliability concern for some industry observers -- on lower natural gas prices, declining demand and the rise of renewable power.

The Energy and Commerce Committee is set to feature a host of energy industry officials at the hearing, including lobbyists for the coal, oil and gas, wind, solar, nuclear, hydropower and energy storage industries, as well as Patricia Hoffman, DOE's acting undersecretary for science.

The Space, Science and Technology Committee is also getting in on the electric grid game, holding a Tuesday hearing on resiliency featuring state officials and academics.  

In the Senate, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will meet Tuesday to discuss the National Laboratories.

The Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on carbon capture technologies on Wednesday.


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