Trump replaces Republican head of energy regulatory panel who supports carbon markets

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump demoted Neil Chatterjee, the Republican head of an energy regulation panel, after he promoted the use of carbon markets by U.S. states to curb climate change.

Trump replaced Chatterjee, who had been chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, with fellow Republican James Danly, who had been a commissioner, Chatterjee said on Twitter late Thursday.

If Joe Biden becomes president it is likely he would quickly name a Democratic FERC chair.

Last month Chatterjee had promoted putting a price on carbon emissions, an idea backed by many former Republican politicians and leading companies as a way to lower emissions of pollutants scientists say are warming the planet.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Carbon pricing has struggled to gain support in the U.S. Congress and in the administration of Trump, who doubts climate science and wants to cut costs on coal, oil and natural gas.

In a proposed policy statement on Oct. 15 Chatterjee said that carbon pricing by U.S. states is an “important market-based tool that has wide support from across sectors.” He also held a conference exploring how a carbon tax would world in power markets.

Josh Price, an analyst at Height Capital Markets, said in a note to clients that the proposed blessing for state-led carbon pricing schemes was a “direct threat to coal.”

Chatterjee’s term was due to end on June 30, and he said he would serve out the rest of that as a commissioner. He once worked on pro-fossil-fuel policies as an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of coal-producing Kentucky.

FERC, an independent panel of the Energy Department, regulates the transmission of electricity and natural gas across states and reviews large energy projects.

Chatterjee told the Washington Examiner that his demotion was “perhaps” because he has supported carbon markets and that if the demotion was retribution, he was proud of his independence.

Danly said in a statement that Chatterjee had left his mark on FERC by brokering an agreement on terminals for natural gas exports and taking other actions to help “secure our American energy independence.”

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Cynthia Osterman)

Nationwide Blackout Possible Using Only Nine Power Substations

A new report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission shows that as little as nine terrorists could take out the United States’ electrical grid for as much as 18 months.

The report says that on a hot summer day, a coordinated attack on just nine of the nation’s 55,000 electric-transmission substations would cripple the system to the point it would cause a nationwide blackout.

“This would be an event of unprecedented proportions,” Ross Baldick, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Texas told the Wall Street Journal.

The article in the WSJ comes a day after a report from a New Jersey utility oversight committee showed a serious lack of security at key electrical substations.  The report also cited the April 2013 attack on a Pacific Gas & Electric transmission station that knocked out 17 transformers with shots from sniper rifles.

The memo from the FERC says the California attack shows “it does not require sophistication to do significant damage to the U.S. grid.”