The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees the country’s power grid and other energy issues from natural gas to oil drilling, has a new chairman: Neil Chatterjee, 40, who was nominated last year to the board of FERC by President Donald Trump. Chatterjee is to replace Kevin McIntyre who resigned citing health reasons.
A former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Neil Chatterjee, led FERC for four months last year before McIntyre became chairman in December. He is the second Indian American to be tapped by Trump for a major regulatory position with a controversial mission.
The other is Ajit Pai, current chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who spearheaded the administration’s drive to end net neutrality, a policy that prevents internet service providers from giving special treatment to preferred web companies.
Two Republicans and two Democrats serve on the commission and its chairman is always from the party that holds the White House. Chatterjee’s new role puts him in the driver’s seat in deciding multi-billiondollar energy projects, which will still require approval by the Senate Energy Committee, chaired by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
FERC is also responsible for overseeing electricity markets and ensuring just and reasonable rates, approving applications for infrastructure projects, and playing a role in cyber security and the defenses of the country’s energy facilities.
Among the issues he will likely deal with are Trump’s plans to allow the construction of the Keystone pipeline to carry crude oil from Canada to Texas, which was stopped by former President Barack Obama, and several gas pipeline projects.
As energy policy advisor to McConnell, Chatterjee serves as his liaison to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the Committee on Environment and Public Works and the Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Nutrition. Over the years, according to his bio, he has played an integral role in the passage of major highway and farm policy and he has been a leader in the energy policy space shepherding efforts to combat cumbersome regulation and most recently working to lift the decades old ban on U.S. crude oil exports.
Prior to serving with McConnell, Chatterjee worked as a Principal in Government Relations for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and as an aide to House Republican Conference chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio. He began his career in Washington with the House Committee on Ways and Means.
Chatterjee was recently named one of the 25 Most Influential People on Capitol Hill by Congressional Quarterly and has also been named a top energy staffer to watch by National Journal and Energy and Environment Daily. He is a graduate of St. Lawrence University and the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
Chatterjee holds the influential position of energy policy advisor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and helped shape energy legislation. His work backed the senator’s campaign against regulations to restrict use of coal for electricity generation. A lawyer by training, Chatterjee started as an intern with the House Works and Means Committee. Between his stints on Congressional staff, he has been a lobbyist for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
Chatterjee, 40, grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, where his parents worked in cancer research. He is married with two sons and a daughter.