On March 21, 2024, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing to consider President Biden’s three recent nominations to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”): (1) David Rosner for the term expiring June 30, 2027; (2)Lindsay S. See for the term expiring June 30, 2028; and (3)Judy W. Chang for the term expiring June 30, 2029.Rosner is an energy industry analyst at FERC and led efforts related to the Commission’s rulemaking on energy storage resources, electric transmission, offshore wind integration, fuel security, and natural gas-electric coordination. See is the Solicitor General of West Virginia, and manages West Virginia’s civil and criminal appellate dockets, with a focus on regulatory and administrative law matters. Chang is an energy economics and policy analyst and was the former Undersecretary of Energy and Climate Solutions for Massachusetts, where she set policies for the Commonwealth’s energy sector.

The nominees were questioned by the Committee on issues ranging from reliability to the role of greenhouse gases in FERC decision-making. In response to reliability questions from Senator Manchin (WV-D), all three nominees explained that reliability was the most important issue impacting FERC today and both dispatchable and intermittent resources could be used to tackle this issue. The nominees also emphasized a resource neutral or “all of the above” approach. When asked by Senator Lee (UT-R) about whether FERC should regulate environmental matters beyond what is required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), including climate change issues, both Chang and Rosner explained that they would look to the text of the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) to analyze the issues and that the NGA does not specify “climate change” in its determination of natural gas siting. Senator Cassidy (LA-R) asked whether greenhouse gas emissions are a criterion by which to deny a natural gas permit and Chang responded that if the law does not require this to be a criterion, she would uphold this law. Rosner added that he would follow the statute, but that some courts have asked the Commission to consider certain greenhouse gas emissions. See stated that FERC does have informational environmental duties under NEPA and that FERC is required to look at the effects of a project, but at the end of the day, FERC must follow the law and what Congress has asked it to do.

The nominees were also asked about other issues impacting FERC and the nation’s energy infrastructure. In response to questions about FERC staffing issues from Senator Padilla (CA-D) all three nominees responded they would be committed to working on the recruiting and staffing challenges at FERC. Senator Hawley (MO-R) asked whether the nominees would exercise extreme care when determining national transmission corridors and ensure that local interest groups such as farmers and ranchers—rather than just large corporations—are heard in the process. Rosner expressed his intent to commit, and Chang noted the Commission’s Office of Public Participation is intended to assist interested parties in having their voices heard. Senator Hyde-Smith (MS-R) asked whether FERC was an economic regulator and not an environmental policy regulating body, and all three nominees agreed that FERC was an economic regulator. Senator Hickenlooper (CO-D) asked whether the United States is falling behind our peers in terms of needed infrastructure, and See responded that she would look at FERC’s responsibilities in this area to encourage the right sort of investments in the context of FERC’s rate making authority and set the right market incentive. Meanwhile, Chang expressed that long-term planning will be necessary to determine how much transmission is required and where they should be sited. When asked about Order No. 2023 reforms and interconnection issues from Senator Cortez Mastro (NV-D), Rosner explained that ensuring orderly and timely connection of resources to the grid is a priority. In response to Senator Murkowski (AK-R) question about the challenges facing hydropower projects during licensing, Chang explained that she understands the value of hydropower and streamlining the process for hydropower projects. Lastly, Senator Hirono (HI-D) asked See about West Virginia v. EPA and the Chevron doctrine and how precise Congress needs to be when delegating authority to FERC, and See responded that FERC like any other agency only has the authority that Congress delegates it, she would be looking at the language and other tools of statutory interpretation.

A copy of Biden’s nomination announcement can be found here and a recording of the Senate hearing can be found here.