Opinion: Make Phillips Permanent Chair of FERC
Friday, March 24th, 2023
America’s younger generations have a big responsibility. Sooner than we may think, they’ll be running our country and setting policy for decades to come.
That’s why I’ve been so passionate about getting young people like me engaged in the democratic process, especially here in a fast-growing and diversifying state like Georgia. One of the most significant challenges facing the next generation is how to effectively combat climate change and produce clean, renewable energy. The magnitude of these issues require the leaders of today to be on the same page as the leaders of tomorrow, and that’s why I’m impressed with President Biden’s recent appointment of Willie Phillips as Acting Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
FERC is responsible for overseeing the nation’s electric and natural gas industries, including regulating the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil. Acting Chairman Phillips is a historic figure as the first African American person to ever lead the agency. He has a broad coalition of support, which includes the Congressional Black Caucus, the Black Economic Alliance, the Joint Center for Political and Economic studies, and the American Association of Blacks in Energy.
Phillips has made reliability, environmental justice, and equity pillars of his role as acting Chairman, making him the ideal choice to guide our country forward on energy issues for the future generation of leaders. To best carry out the goals of the commission, as well as assist with the Biden Administration’s clean energy and climate change goals, President Biden needs to take steps to remove the acting designation and formally nominate Mr. Phillips to the role of permanent chairman.
Phillips has a wealth of experience with which to draw from and a clear agenda for his time in office. He garnered bipartisan support in the Senate during his nomination to the commission in 2021 and it’s evident from his time on the commission that he intends to work toward consensus – both internal and external – when it relates to the regulatory process and policies that come out of the commission. Prior to joining FERC, Acting Chairman Phillips previously served on the District of Columbia
Public Service Commission (DCPSC), ultimately concluding his tenure there as chairman. And he has a great deal of corporate regulatory compliance background, including from his work as Assistant General Counsel for the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).
Phillips is uniquely qualified to place environmental justice at the center of FERC decisions, and his history with the DCPSC has shown that he is willing to emphasize stakeholder engagement and ensure that the individuals most impacted by climate change and FERC decisions have their voices heard.
Across the country this is important; but in a state like Georgia, which has a large African American population – and like other southern states, is center stage for more severe weather and threats to existing energy systems – ensuring environmental justice moving forward is key.
All voices need to be heard in the regulatory process and Acting Chairman Phillips will ensure that this is the case.
It’s clear that Acting Chairman Phillips is the right person to lead the agency. His experience speaks for itself, but his ability to engage with a variety of stakeholders and his commitment to environmental justice are what is needed as the agency, and our nation, enter a new age. It’s time for President Biden to do what is needed on behalf of the American people and permanently fill the position of FERC Chairman with Mr. Phillips.
Evan Malbrough is founder of the Georgia Youth Poll Worker Project and a recent graduate of Georgia State University, named one of its 40 Under 40 Honorees.