The head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Tuesday denied that there is a "conspiracy" to delay the addition of two new members on the five-person board.
Chairman Neil Chatterjee told reporters that he is not trying to delay Republican Kevin McIntyre and Democrat Richard Glick from being sworn in.
McIntyre — who is slated to be the new chairman of the body — and Glick were confirmed by the Senate Nov. 2, and President Trump recently processed their paperwork for ascension to the commission. But they have not been sworn in.
“I do want to be clear with everybody: you guys are reading way too much into this. There is no conspiracy here. There is no intentional delay or dragging things out to some nefarious end,” Chatterjee said after speaking at a Consumer Energy Alliance event.
“It’s simply a matter of timing, prioritization, getting documents signed. Then, once the documents are signed … people have to unwind their own professional obligations in their current jobs before they can transition over. Last week was Thanksgiving. I’m certain that both of the confirmed nominees wanted to spend time with their families.”
Chatterjee later said that there are “no Machiavellian games here” and “both of them will be sworn in short order.”
Shortly after Chatterjee's remarks, FERC officials said Glick, a former aide to Senate Democrats, would be sworn into his new position Wednesday, leaving the commission with two Republicans and two Democrats.
Chatterjee also said the commission is still on track to take some sort of action on Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryRepublicans are the 21st-century Know-Nothing Party College football move rocks Texas legislature Trump tries to spin failed Texas endorsement: 'This was a win' MORE’s proposal to require higher payments for electricity from some coal and nuclear-fired power plants by a Dec. 11 deadline.
Chatterjee strongly supports the proposal, which would prop up coal and nuclear power plants that could be driven out of the market. McIntyre, meanwhile, has said FERC "is not an entity whose role includes choosing fuels for the generation of electricity."
The policy is intended to improve the resilience of the nation’s electric grid. It has received strong support from coal and nuclear interests, but opposition from environmentalists and competing power sources like natural gas and renewables.
FERC could take action on it in a number of ways, such as implementing Perry’s request, rejecting it, implementing a different regulation or delaying action.
Chatterjee has floated the idea of an “interim” rule to protect coal and nuclear plants that are at risk of closing while FERC considers a more long-term plan.
“I think one of the options we could consider would be an intermediate step, or an interim step, in which we find a mechanism … that could potentially keep some of these plants afloat while we do that longer-term analysis,” he said.
He declined to detail what that short-term plan would look like, citing internal agency deliberations.
Republican Rob Powelson and Democrat Cheryl LaFleur, the other current commissioners, have voiced objections to Perry's proposal.