The Trump administration on November 5 removed Neil Chatterjee from the chairmanship of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, replacing him with fellow Republican James Danly, who was confirmed to a seat on the commission in March.
Chatterjee joined FERC in 2017, serving as chairman from August to December 2017. He returned to the leadership role in October 2018, following the departure of Kevin McIntyre. In a tweet, Chatterjee said that he intends to complete his term, which expires in June 2021.
Chatterjee, take one: “It’s been the honor of a lifetime to serve as the chairman of FERC alongside my colleagues and staff, who represent some of the most talented and hardworking professionals in the U.S. government,” Chatterjee said in a statement on the FERC website. “But our work—my work—at the commission isn’t over. I look forward to working with my friend, Chairman Danly, as well as the next administration, to continue to carry out our important mission.”
Between the lines: While the White House has been silent on its rationale for the move, some, including Chatterjee himself, have speculated that it may be a response to recent actions of his that are viewed as being out of line with prevailing administration orthodoxy.
On September 17, for instance, Chatterjee joined Richard Glick, the commission’s lone Democrat, in approving Order 2222, a final rule that enables distributed energy resource aggregators to compete in all regional organized wholesale electric markets. At the time, Chatterjee said of the order, “Today, FERC broke new ground towards creating the grid of the future by knocking down barriers to entry for emerging technologies.” The order was opposed by Danly.
In addition, on September 30, FERC hosted a conference on carbon pricing, followed on October 15 by a proposed carbon pricing policy asserting that the commission has jurisdiction over organized wholesale electric market rules that incorporate a state-determined carbon price in those markets. Danly dissented in part from the statement, saying that it was “unnecessary and unwise as a matter of discretionary action.”
There has been further speculation that Chatterjee’s removal may have stemmed in part from his refusal to embrace President Trump’s September 22 executive order limiting diversity training.
Chatterjee, take two: “I knew when I moved forward with Order 2222, convened the tech conference on carbon pricing, and ultimately moved forward with a proposed policy statement, that there was the risk of blowback,” Chatterjee said in a November 6 interview. “I knew that, [but] went forward anyway, because I thought it was the right thing to do. I don't know for certain that that is the reason that the action was taken . . . but if it was, I’m actually quite proud of it. And it would have been totally worth it.”