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Critical American Jobs: Vacancies President Trump and the Senate Need to Fill ASAP

When a new president takes office, there is always a lot on the White House’s plate. But recently 93 members of the House of Representatives sent President Trump a letter asking him to move one particular issue higher on the list: picking new members for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, so that body can resume its crucial work of overseeing energy infrastructure.
Vacancies in FERC, NRC, Ex-Im Bank
The members of Congress are correct about that agency, known as FERC, but it is not the only part of government that is short-handed.

FERC is supposed to have five members, but the number had dwindled to three, and recently one of the three quit, so FERC is not able to muster a quorum.

FERC does many jobs. The one most important to the nuclear industry is oversight of the Independent System Operators, the non-profit companies that run the electricity markets and operate the electric grid over most of the country. Those markets have serious problems but, with FERC out of action, proposed reforms will have to wait. So will a variety of other areas controlled by FERC, including approval of new gas pipelines.

The letter was initiated by Tim Walberg, a Michigan Republican who serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon, the chairman of that committee, and Fred Upton, Republican of Michigan, the chairman of the subcommittee on energy, recently sent a separate letter.

Another five-seat body that is important to the American energy industry, the Export-Import Bank, is nearly paralyzed by its lack of a quorum. Loans over $10 million require a vote by its board, and it has not had a quorum for over a year. American exporters of all kinds, including those who seek to sell nuclear equipment, are competing with overseas companies whose governments can approve loans; ours can’t. Fixing the problem would create high-quality American jobs quickly.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has only three of five commissioner seats filled, and will be down to two at the end of June unless the White House and the Senate act.

If the NRC falls below a quorum of three, the chairperson will function as a single administrator. Other agencies work well that way and the NRC would certainly continue to do a good job, but the public interest is best served by having a commission fully staffed by well-qualified individuals.

Vacancies threaten the government’s continuity of operations. The issue is not really partisan. There is a long-standing formula in place for dividing the seats among members of the majority party and the minority party. But it requires White House action and Senate follow-up.

And it requires time. Nominees must have background checks, and then the Senate votes.

Starting on this soon would be a good idea.

The above is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

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