Trump’s top energy regulator invites execs to Coal Country

FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee. Image courtesy of the Center on Global Energy Policy — Columbia University.

President Donald Trump’s chief energy regulator has invited a group of environmentalists, energy executives and other industry leaders to the heart of Coal Country for a summit on “the future of American energy.”

Neil Chatterjee, the Republican chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and a longstanding champion of the coal industry, recently sent invitations for the Oct. 21 summit. The event comes as the independent agency faces mounting criticism that it’s become more political under his charge, and as high ranking officials in the Trump administration continue to push for action to aid the coal industry.

Held in partnership with the University of Kentucky, the location was chosen because “it’s a pivotal time in the Bluegrass state and a historic moment as we continue to experience changes in our generation mix,” according to the invitation seen by Bloomberg.

Chatterjee’s office confirmed details of the invitation, saying in a statement that “the Chairman liked the idea of getting outside of the ‘DC bubble’ to provide a different landscape and format for these important conversations.” Confirmed guests include Tyson Slocum, energy director for advocacy group Public Citizen; Abby Hopper, chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association; and Joe Blount, chief executive of Colonial Pipeline, according to a statement.

Chatterjee, a Kentucky native who formerly advised Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on energy policy, has been criticized for promoting policies that favor coal, including an ill-fated proposal to curb coal plant retirements by paying generators for having fuel on-site. Members of the commission are supposed to be fuel-neutral. In 2017, the agency shot down a Trump administration bid to bail out money-losing coal plants.

The invitation characterizes the event as a “bipartisan, wide-ranging energy dialogue” in which participants can share their perspectives on the evolving energy landscape, leadership and innovation. Chatterjee’s also organized an entire weekend of activities in addition to the actual program, including a reception at the university president’s home on the Sunday before and an event at the Keeneland Race Track.

(By Stephen Cunningham and Lynn Doan)

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