Two Massachusetts Biden Nominees May Help Determine Federal Agency’s Climate-Change Policies On Pipelines

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President Joe Biden has picked two Massachusetts residents with an interest in climate change to serve on the federal panel that regulates interstate oil pipelines, interstate natural gas pipelines, and much of the nation’s electricity grid.

The nominations come at a time when climate activists are trying to get what The Washington Post in April 2022 called the “little-known federal agency” to use its scrutiny of projects to enact climate-change rules that supporters have been unable to get through Congress as legislation.

One of Biden’s nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency is Judy Chang, an energy economist with a background in electrical engineering who served as undersecretary of energy and climate solutions in the administration of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. In that role, Chang sought to align “strategies and plans for decarbonization and climate mitigation,” according to her current faculty biography on the web site of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where she serves as adjunct lecturer in public policy.

The other is David Rosner, an economist who has worked for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Policy and Innovation since February 2017. While remaining an employee of the commission, Rosner has worked since 2022 as a temporary “detailee” for the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which is chaired by U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia).

Rosner has the support of Manchin, according to a September 2023 story in E&E News, which reported at the time that Manchin did not back Chang.

In October 2020, Rosner led a technical conference sponsored by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that Rosner said was designed to examine how electricity transmission operators “can accommodate anticipated growth in offshore wind generation,” according to a transcript of the proceedings.

Chang participated as a speaker during the online conference, during which she talked about the Baker administration’s attempts to reduce carbon output while providing power, fuel, and heat.

“We have found through our modeling that the least cost way to decarbonize the economy is to electrify the transportation and heating sectors while continuing to decarbonize the electricity system,” Chang said during the conference, according to the transcript.

She also said that — as of the conference in October 2020 — more “Near and long-term planning” for transmitting electricity from ocean wind turbines was needed.

“I think transmission planning is lacking in the context of offshore winds,” Chang said.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is an independent agency that is also part of the U.S. Department of Energy. Its yearly budget is more than $500 million. The money comes from annual charges and filing fees from companies the agency regulates, with a net appropriation from the U.S. Treasury of zero, according to the agency’s most recent budget request.

The agency is overseen by five commissioners who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. They serve staggered five-year terms. By federal statute, no more than three of the commissioners can be members of the same political party.

In February 2022, the commission voted 3-2 to begin considering the greenhouse gas emissions of natural gas pipelines and their effect on climate change when evaluating applications for projects.

Senator Manchin called the commission to task for the new climate-change guidelines during a U.S. Senate Energy Committee meeting in March 2022, saying they “served to elevate environmental considerations above American energy reliability, security, and independence.”

“In my view, there is an effort under way by some to inflict death by a thousand cuts on the fossil fuels that have made our energy reliable and affordable while also providing us countless products and a vast strategic advantage over our adversaries and to the benefit of our allies and trade partners,” Manchin said, according to a text of his remarks.

Later in March 2022, the commission backtracked, deciding to deem the climate-change rules “as draft policy statements” that would not affect applications filed “before the Commission issue any final guidance in these dockets.”

Manchin subsequently refused to hold a confirmation hearing for Richard Glick, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and a supporter of the climate change rules, when President Biden nominated him for a second term. Glick’s term expired in January 2023.

The current commission has three members and two vacancies. One of the members, Allison Clements, a Democrat who supported the climate change rules in February 2022, has not been nominated for another term by President Biden. Clements’s term ends June 30, 2024.

The current commission chairman, Willie Phillips, a Democrat who also supported the climate change rules in February 2022. His term expires June 30, 2026.

The third current member of the commission, Mark Christie, a Republican, opposed the climate change rules in February 2022. His term expires June 30, 2025.

On Thursday, February 29, 2024, President Biden nominated three people to the commission.

One nominee is Lindsay See, the solicitor general of West Virginia and a contributor to the right-of-center Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, to replace James Danly, a Republican opponent of the climate change rules and Trump appointment whose term expired in January 2024.

The other two are Chang, who would replace climate-change-rules supporter Clements; and Rosner, who would fill the seat vacated by climate-change-rules supporter Glick.

Manchin, who is retiring from the U.S. Senate in early January 2025, released a noncommittal statement last week on the three Biden nominees.

“… I look forward to reviewing the qualifications of the three individuals nominated today to be FERC Commissioners and assessing their commitment to American energy security,” Manchin said in the written statement Thursday, February 29.


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