The independent energy commission overseeing the U.S. power sector is facing accusations of shielding public records to protect one of President Biden‘s top climate-change lieutenants and the agency’s leader.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which has jurisdiction over power companies and natural gas pipelines, is in the midst of a monthslong lawsuit with the nonprofit Institute for Energy Research (IER) for its refusal to release documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
IER alleges it’s because FERC is protecting its chairman, Richard Glick.
Mr. Glick, a Democrat who’s been reappointed by Mr. Biden, has advanced the administration’s climate change priorities but faces an uncertain future.
His tenure expires at the end of the year unless Senate Energy Committee Chairman Joe Manchin III, who has traded barbs with Mr. Glick in the past over FERC’s anti-pipeline policies, advances his renomination.
The Democrat, who hails froe natural-gas-rich West Virginia, has declined to do so since May, when Mr. Biden nominated Mr. Glick for a second five-year term.
In a statement to The Washington Times, Mr. Manchin’s office declined to say whether or when Mr. Glick would get a hearing.
The ongoing litigation revealed earlier this year that Mr. Glick‘s independent body successfully implemented new climate reviews for energy projects after regular meetings with White House staff.
In its latest court filing Tuesday, IER said it appears FERC is illegally withholding additional documents that would otherwise be public, such as Mr. Glick‘s calendars, government phone records, emails and other files, for political purposes.
“FERC ceased producing in response” to its requests “and engaged in other behavior suggesting a deliberate decision to impose delays on the processing of information relevant to Mr. Glick‘s compliance with federal recordkeeping laws and otherwise pertaining to FERC and its operations under Mr. Glick‘s management,” IER said in its filing.
FERC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Glick testified previously to Mr. Manchin’s committee that he did not discuss with the White House policies that would impede natural gas pipelines, despite the meetings and correspondence with Biden climate adviser Ali Zaidi that was later revealed.
The unreleased documents requested by IER would likely show further coordination with the White House on climate policies, the group says.
Mr. Glick, who was nominated to FERC by former President Trump but elevated to chairman by Mr. Biden, would likely need the support of all 50 Senate Democrats. Republicans oppose him despite previously backing his confirmation because of FERC climate policies that they say have stifled fossil fuel production.
Documents released under a separate lawsuit by the nonprofit Energy Policy Advocates against the Securities and Exchange Commission showed that SEC officials under Chairman Gary Gensler were also in contact with the White House before its controversial “climate risk disclosure” rule was proposed, which would require public companies to disclose certain climate-related financial and emissions data.