President Joe Biden Feb. 9 officially made Willie L. Phillips Jr. chairman of the Federal Regulatory Commission (FERC) after more than a year as FERC’s acting leader (OGJ Online, Jan. 4, 2023).
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) praised the move, noting that over the past year as acting chairman, Phillips “has proven time and time again that he was the right person to lead this ever-important agency from the start.”
Last June the Congressional Black Caucus urged Biden to take the “acting” off Chairman Phillips’ title, noting that he was the first Black leader of FERC and that significantly more staffing and resources are available to a chairman than an acting chairman.
FERC currently has two commissioners and a chairman, with two seats vacant. The White House has not nominated new FERC commissioners, and a third commissioner’s term will expire this summer, which could leave the regulator, which decides if new gas pipelines and electric transmission lines are built, without a quorum.
Amy Andryszak, president and chief executive officer of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America said Chairman Phillips had “deployed a pragmatic approach” to leading FERC. “Now that there is certainty in its leadership, the President should prioritize nominating two new commissioners to FERC, and the Senate should move quickly in vetting and confirming those nominations. FERC works best when it has a full complement of five commissioners to provide the regulatory certainty necessary for investment in America’s energy infrastructure.”
Phillips is the former chairman of the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia. He also served as assistant general counsel for the North American Electric Reliability Corp.