“I knew when I got into this path that there could be consequences,” Chatterjee told CNN Business in a Friday interview. “I’m speculating, but if in fact, this demotion was the result of a blowback, I’m completely reassured by it. I did the right thing. I̵7;m proud of that. I slept well. last night.”
The White House declined to comment and an FERC statement did not explain what led to the change.
Chatterjee, a Republican and former energy advisor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was first nominated by Trump in May 2017. A Kentucky native, Chatterjee had his own eyes. saw the economic devastation caused by the decline of the coal industry.
Trump will replace Chatterjee as chairman with James Danly, who became a commissioner in March and opposes the recent FERC orders that will aid clean energy. Chatterjee will remain a FERC commissioner.
Chatterjee said he was not given an explanation, adding that he “has no contact with anyone at the White House.”
The timing of this move is particularly notable as it makes Chatterjee the top-level political appointee scrapped after Election Day.
“It is worth noting that I was the first,” said Chatterjee, adding that he had seen reports of other employees, including the head of the Department of Defense. “To be honest, I would bet a lot of money that the President and no one in his circle had a clue that this even happened.”
He said the dismissal could be a result of opportunism.
“I think this was done by the lower-level staff in the White House who, for a wild time, saw the opportunity to send the message and embrace it. And that’s all. okay, “said Chatterjee.
Some analysts agree that the dismissal may be related to Chatterjee’s recent endorsement for clean energy.
Josh Price, an analyst at Height Capital Markets, wrote in a report on Friday that “Chatterjee’s recent pro-competition policies may have been deemed anti-coal by the White House”.
The US Renewable Energy Council released a statement expressing surprise at the “sudden change in leadership” at the FERC. The Council welcomed Chatterjee’s steps on carbon and dispersed energy pricing, but said the other moves were “disappointing and profoundly destructive” as they undermine renewable energy.
Without Green Transactions, the focus will be on FERC
The FERC is a five-member committee and no more than three of those officials may come from one political party. However, the FERC currently operates with only three commissioners, two Republicans and one Democrat, as two nominees are waiting for Senate confirmation.
Chatterjee insists he is not going anywhere. His term of membership will not expire until the end of June 2021, and even then he may continue until his replacement is confirmed by the US Senate. That puts Chatterjee a pivotal role in energy policy, regardless of who takes over the White House next year.
“Here’s the irony: I’m still one of the highest-ranking energy officials in the country,” says Chatterjee.
If anything, the FERC could play an even bigger role if Democrats gain control of the White House and Republicans hold the US Senate. That standoff will most likely prevent Democrats from enacting sweeping climate laws.
“In a divided government, there will be no Green New Deal. There will be no carbon tax. I think FERC will be the game – and I will be the central player in that game,” said Chatterjee.
If anything, his dismissal could increase his influence in Washington.
“It confirmed my integrity and independence,” he said. “It is very important to my legacy and my future. I consider this a badge of honor.”