Romney’s influence on NRC, FERC could be subtle

By Darius Dixon


Positions such as DOE secretary and EPA administrator hog the spotlight when people read the tea leaves of a potential Mitt Romney White House’s impact on energy and environmental policy. But the independent regulatory agencies would feel the shift as well.

Two potential appointees who could have the most impact are already in place.

Some observers see FERC member Philip Moeller as a strong pick for the chairmanship of the agency, a move that would probably shift the agency’s attention toward the natural gas industry and lead to smaller emphasis on integrating renewables. Moeller has also been vocal about his concerns about the effects of EPA air rules on electric reliability.

Meanwhile, others speculate that Romney could elevate NRC member Kristine Svinicki to chairwoman — an appointment that may not shift policy as much as the style of the leadership.

FERC and the NRC — designed to be independent and apolitical — offer a different dynamic than those of typical executive agency appointments. Their commissioners serve staggered five-year terms and, once confirmed, are difficult to unseat except under extreme circumstances. But the president can decide which commissioner serves as the chair and figurehead for the agency.

Moeller, who has been at the FERC leadership table since 2006, has an outgoing personality, and observers of the agency expect that he’d fully use the chairmanship’s platform to draw attention to issues.


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September 2012