President Biden last Thursday announced his intention to nominate Willie L. Phillips Jr., chairman of the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia, for the vacant seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Phillips would replace Republican Neil Chatterjee, who left FERC at the end of August, two months after the official expiration of his term. (Chatterjee remained on the commission to provide time for the Biden administration to choose his replacement. He has since joined the Climate Leadership Council and the global law firm Hogan Lovells.)
Before joining the D.C. PSC, Phillips served as assistant general counsel for the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. He is currently an active member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, where he serves on the board of directors as chair of the Select Committee on Regulatory and Industry Diversity.
Phillips fans: According to the September 9 announcement from the White House, “Phillips is an experienced regulatory attorney combining nearly 20 years of legal expertise as a utility regulator, in private practice, and as in-house counsel. He has an extensive background in the areas of public utility regulation, bulk power system reliability, and corporate governance. As chairman of the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia, Willie was a thoughtful and innovative leader in modernizing the energy grid, implementing the district’s aggressive clean energy and climate goals, and in protecting the district’s customers.”
FERC’s current chairman, Democrat Richard Glick, added: “He is highly qualified and very well regarded. The commission’s work is essential to advancing our nation’s clean energy transition and to ensuring the reliability and security of our energy infrastructure. A five-member commission is critical to ensuring this important work continues.”
Why it matters: If nominated and approved by the Senate, Phillips would give the Democrats a 3–2 edge at FERC for the first time in more than four years. He is likely to side with Glick and Allison Clements, FERC’s other Democratic commissioner, in opposition to its controversial 2019 minimum offer price rule, which many view as undermining state policies that support carbon-free energy, including nuclear.