President Donald Trump entered office with a promise to expedite energy infrastructure development, signing executive memorandums reviving the Keystone XL pipeline and demanding completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline in his first days in office. But a less publicized move to replace the head of a federal regulatory agency will almost certainly slow federal approval for new natural gas pipelines.
Last week, Trump replaced the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a five-person panel that approves certain natural gas pipeline projects and regulates interstate energy infrastructure. The booted regulator was expected to remain on the panel, but instead resigned entirely leaving FERC with only two members. The panel needs one more member to operate.
Advocates for the natural gas industry have urged Trump to appoint replacements as soon as possible given a range of projects pending approval. But it could be months before FERC new commissioners take their seats due to a lengthy Senate confirmation process.
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told Politico earlier this week that she had not heard anything from the White House about filling the vacancies. "I would think that they would be moving on this sooner than later," she said. "But as of this point in time we don't have anything."