Energy & Environment

Biden nominates DC regulator to federal energy commission

Greg Nash

President Biden on Thursday nominated Willie Phillips Jr., a utility regulator for the District of Columbia, to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The White House announcement said Phillips has nearly 20 years of legal expertise, working as a regulator as well as in private practice. It also cited his work on implementing the city’s climate and clean energy goals.

Phillips’s nomination follows the recent departure of Neil Chatterjee — a Republican — from the commission after his tenure expired over the summer.

The commission, which regulates interstate electricity transmission as well as energy infrastructure like pipelines, cannot have any more than three members of the same political party on the five-member panel.

If Phillips is confirmed, Democrats will have a 3-2 majority.

Phillips has chaired D.C.’s Public Service Commission since his appointment by then-Mayor Vincent Gray (D) in 2014. Current D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) re-nominated him in 2018.

The American Council on Renewable Energy hailed the pick, calling it a “welcome announcement” in a statement Thursday.

“A full complement of five FERC commissioners is critical for advancing the clean energy transition,” Gregory Wetstone, the council’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “We call on the Senate to swiftly confirm this highly qualified nominee, so FERC can effectively address the transmission and power market reforms necessary to unlock America’s growing renewable energy economy.”

Chatterjee also praised the selection, tweeting Thursday that “Should he [Phillips] be confirmed it would be an honor to have him succeed me.”

The Center for Biological Diversity, however, expressed reservations about Phillips’s regulatory record. Jean Su, energy justice program director for the organization, said Phillips’s “record and approval of Pepco’s merger with Exelon bears close scrutiny to ensure that he can regulate independently of utility interests.”

“We hope the Senate will ask the tough questions of Mr. Phillips about his commitment to ending FERC’s disastrous status quo so we can finally prioritize environmental and energy justice in our energy policies,” Su said in a statement.

Updated at 11:12 a.m.

Tags energy commission FERC FERC nominee Joe Biden Muriel Bowser Neil Chatterjee Senate confirmation
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