White House announces intent to nominate SCC Chair Mark Christie to FERC

State Corporation Commission Judge Mark Christie. (Photo by Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Virginia State Corporation Commission Chair Mark Christie will be nominated by President Donald Trump’s administration to sit on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the White House announced Monday.

FERC, which can include up to five commissioners, is the federal regulatory agency that oversees interstate energy sales and transmission projects, including pipelines, natural gas storage and liquefied natural gas terminals. The body currently has three members after the expiration of Commissioner Bernard McNamee’s term on June 30. 

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Christie and another nominee, energy lawyer and strategist Allison Clements of Ohio, would bring FERC’s membership to five. 

Albert Pollard, a former Virginia state delegate and clean energy advocate who was involved in the crafting of the Virginia’s landmark Clean Economy Act, called Christie “a ‘little c conservative’ who … would bring a good state perspective to FERC.”

But in Virginia, the potential departure of Christie would leave a hole in the three-seat State Corporation Commission, the powerful body that regulates the state’s utilities, banking and insurance. 

Because commissioners have such wide-ranging influence in Virginia and are nominated and confirmed by the General Assembly, their appointment has at times sparked acrimonious political fights. 

This March, Senate Republicans in a procedural maneuver blocked the confirmation of the most recent SCC judge, Jehmal Hudson, citing not only objections to his fitness for the role but also unhappiness with Democratic leadership. Hudson, who was appointed for a temporary term by Gov. Ralph Northam this June, was himself filling a hotly contested seat briefly held by Patricia West

If Christie departs the SCC, his absence will leave two vacancies on the commission for the General Assembly to fill in 2021, although Democrats, who control both houses of the General Assembly, are expected to reappoint Hudson for a full six-year term.