Murkowski: FERC Should Take Balanced Approach in Regulation of Energy Sector

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today chaired a hearing to conduct oversight of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). For the first time in about a decade, all five FERC commissioners – Chairman Kevin McIntyre, Cheryl LaFleur, Neil Chatterjee, Robert Powelson, and Richard Glick – testified before the committee.

Murkowski opened the hearing by noting there have been a number of significant changes in the energy sector since the last time the full Commission was before the committee, citing the shale gas revolution, the increasing role of renewables, and advances in energy storage innovation. Murkowski also highlighted the need for energy infrastructure – including natural gas pipelines – which bring about a host of economic benefits.

“If we are going to remain a prosperous nation with strong growth and affordable energy, we need our interstate pipeline network to continue to meet customer demands for natural gas,” Murkowski said. “LNG exports from states like Alaska also represent a significant economic opportunity for many states, scores of communities, and, looking abroad, for America’s allies.”

Questions surrounding the retirements of nuclear and coal fueled electric generation were prominent in the hearing.

“I have my concerns with the steps the Department of Energy is reported to be considering, but also recognize they are trying to fill a perceived vacuum,” Murkowski said. “In my view, FERC should be pointing the way on policy improvements that address grid vulnerabilities, while reaffirming our commitment to competition in wholesale power markets. I have been concerned about this issue for years now, and find it unfortunate that prior Commissions did not lead more effectively.”

In 2015, Murkowski sent a letter to then-FERC Chairman Norman Bay acknowledging the benefits of organized wholesale markets but also pointing out the need to ensure that Commission-approved market rules do not jeopardize reliability or risk future investment.  Today she asked the commissioners about premature retirements and called on FERC to lead the way in addressing reliability and resilience challenges.

Murkowski further emphasized the importance of FERC’s role in protecting our nation’s energy facilities and infrastructure from cyber threats and attacks, and identifying the best solutions to meet these challenges moving forward.   

Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Last year, she worked to restore a quorum and full complement of FERC commissioners. An archived video and testimony from today’s hearing are available on the committee’s website. Click here and here to view Murkowski’s questions for witnesses.

Related Issues: Energy