FERC Commissioner Clark says he will not seek a second term

Another Republican vacancy at FERC will open up this year as Commissioner Tony Clark informed colleagues at their Jan. 21 meeting that he will not seek a second term at the commission.

Clark’s announcement followed the departure of fellow Republican Philip Moeller, who left the agency in October 2015 after his term expired in June 2015.

Clark’s term expires June 30, and he said he decided to make the announcement “rather than playing coy for the next six months,” and to provide sufficient notice given the time it takes for a new commissioner to be nominated by the president and sworn in by the Senate. 

FERC rules allow commissioners to stay on past the end of their terms, and Clark said he intends to remain at FERC for his full term, and perhaps a bit longer depending on circumstances.

“I look forward to being around a while,” he said at the meeting. “I have no plans to leave the commission but I wanted to give a heads-up to those interested in perhaps seeking the seat, and to my staff for planning purposes.”

The announcement also provides sufficient time for a possible replacement to get through the presidential nomination, vetting and Senate confirmation process, which can take a while, Clark said.

When Moeller said he would not seek another term at FERC, he planned to stay on until a successor was named, but that did not happen. He has since been selected to join the Edison Electric Institute starting Feb. 1, where he will be senior vice president of energy delivery and chief customer solutions officer.

As TransmissionHub has reported, among those that have been mentioned as a likely nominee to fill Moeller’s seat is Patrick McCormick, a key staffer on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who was tapped by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to serve as special counsel in 2011. McCormick’s background includes being an attorney in private practice in Washington and serving as deputy assistant general counsel for electric rates and corporate regulation at FERC.

No more than three members of FERC can be a member of the president’s political party, and Moeller’s departure left Clark as the lone Republican on the commission. It is unknown at this time if President Barack Obama intends to nominate a replacement for Moeller or Clark, as FERC can function with a quorum of three commissioners.

While Obama may nominate a replacement for Moeller, election-year politics could play a role and the Senate may not confirm any nominee until after the presidential election takes place in November.

Clark came to FERC in 2012 after being nominated by Obama and confirmed by the Senate. Prior to that, he had roles as chairman and commissioner at the North Dakota Public Service Commission, and he has served as president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. He has also been North Dakota’s Labor Commissioner and a state lawmaker in North Dakota.

At the FERC meeting, Clark noted that he was elected to the state legislature when he was 23, “so I’ve been in government a long time. But in the words of the immortal Monty Python, I am not dead yet.”