Cheryl LaFleur
Former Commissioner, FERC

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, known as FERC, regulates interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity. For decades, FERC has played a key role in energy policy but often labored in obscurity. Today, FERC stands squarely at the heart of some of the biggest energy policy issues that we face in this country: pipeline capacity, cyber attacks, the role of natural gas in the energy transition, and issues of grid reliability and resilience as we transition to a more distributed and lower carbon electricity grid composed of more renewable energy. 

In this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Jason Bordoff is joined by Cheryl LaFleur, a nationally recognized energy leader and one of the longest serving commissioners at FERC, having served from 2010 until August of this year. She was appointed by President Obama as chairperson both for 2014-15, and also served as acting chair from 2013-14, and was again named chair in 2017. She is the only person to leave FERC twice, under two different administrations. 

Cheryl joined FERC after a long career in the northeast utility industry, retiring from her role as Executive Vice President and acting CEO of the utility company National Grid, which serves electricity to over 3 million customers. She most recently stepped down from her role at FERC and was elected to the Board of Directors of ISO New England, an independent nonprofit that operates and plans the power system and administers wholesale electricity markets for New England. 

Jason sat down with Cheryl to discuss the changes she saw at FERC during her tenure, the role of natural gas in the energy transition, what FERC can do to address climate change, and much more.

View the Transcript

Jason Bordoff:  Hello, and welcome to Columbia Energy Exchange, a weekly podcast from the center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. I’m Jason Bordoff. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission known as FERC plays a key role regulating interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, electricity. For decades FERC has played a key role in energy policy, but often labored in obscurity. Today FERC stands squarely at the heart, however some of the biggest energy policy issues that we face in this country pipeline capacity, cyber attacks, the role of natural gas and the energy transition issues of good reliability and resilience as we transition to a more distributed and lower carbon electricity grade composed of more renewable energy. Our guest today is a nationally recognized energy leader, and one of the longest serving commissioners at FERC, Cheryl LaFleur.  She served at FERC from 2010 until August of this year appointed by President Obama, as Chair Person both for 2014 to 2015, also served as acting chair from 2013 to 2014 and was again named chair in 2017. She is the only person who lead for twice, under two different administrations. She joined FERC after a long career in the Northeast Utility Industry retiring from her role as Executive Vice President and acting CEO, of the Utility Company National Grid, which serves electricity to over three million customers. She most recently stepped down from her role at FERC and was elected to the Board of Directors of ISO New England, the independent system operator of New England. An independent non-profit that operates and plans the power system and administers whole sale electricity markets for New England. 

Cheryl LaFleur, thanks for joining us on Columbia Energy Exchange.

Cheryl LaFleur:  Thank you, happy to be here.

Jason Bordoff:  And congrats on such a long and distinguished 10 year at FERC and then thank you for your public service during and nearly a decade at FERC one of the longest serving commissioners ever.

Cheryl LaFleur:  Thank you very much.

Jason Bordoff:  Lot of talk about with that distinguished 10 year at FERC and you have seen so much of the energy oil change over that time. I want to start by asking you to sort of reflect a little bit on your time at FERC, nearly a decade that’s a long time. And just talk a little bit about, what some of the most significant changes have been that you have seen the trends in the energy world that have maybe surprised you the most, and then let’s talk a little bit about how FERC is changed also.

Cheryl LaFleur:  Sure, well during the nearly a decade I was on FERC, there were really profound changes in the way the nation generates, distributes and uses energy. And all of them were shaped by the things that are not within the control of FERC, but really drove a lot of FERC’s work. 

And I would say, number one probably the biggest driver of change were the resource changes particularly the growth and the availability and affordability of domestic natural gas, which made it the fuel of choice for the first half to two thirds of the time, I was at FERC for new generation. And just placing a lot of other forms of generation, as well as changing the import economy to an export economy. The second big driver of change was the growth of new technology particularly the achievement of critical mass of solar and wind generation, as well as demand side technologies and increasingly storage, that led to a lot of work of how to price those technologies and make sure they can compete fairly in wholesale markets. And they began to change the usage patterns and cause patterns of electricity as we knew it. And the third big driver of change was environmental and climate issues, particularly the increased focus on the role of energy in climate change which is shaping a lot of the decisions that are driving FERC’s work, but it’s not something where FERC is the key policy maker. 

Jason Bordoff:  What are you most proud of in terms of achievements, when you look back on your legacy at FERC?

Cheryl LaFleur:  I guess, I look at it two different ways in terms of just my personal achievements, I’m really most proud that during the two periods, when I was a chairman which were both in times of a lot of turbulence and leadership, uncertainty. I kept the commission on track, kept the wonderful employees there and motivated, and I hope. And was just a steady leader I hope in times of tremendous uncertainty. I’m also proud that during my entire time I really decided every issue as I saw it by the facts and law of the case, tried to be unswayed by political pressure or exogenous issues. 

And really strove to reach consensus, compromises with my colleagues, which were sometimes hard that’s what I’m proud of as a decision maker. In terms of the merits of the commission’s work which are not just Cheryl LaFleur’s work. I think the work that the commission did in the past decade, to help those new technologies flourish in the market, so at least be treated fairly so they could flourish, is going to turn out to be very significant. And some of it was low profile like changing the small generator into a connector so, you could put more solar on a circuit changing the transmission pricing rules to help variable energy connect, some of it was higher profile like order number 745 to allow demand response to compete fairly in the markets, or the reason order on storage technologies, but I think those will end up being in doing.

Jason Bordoff:  I’ll come back to both of those, but is there anything in particular you wish you/FERC had been able to do during the time period?

Cheryl LaFleur:  I think I had two biggest regrets, the first is that we were not able to do more during my time period to help interstate and intraregional transmission get build. Order number 1000 I think was extremely well intended. I voted forward enthusiastically, that was the trans – the commissions landmark transmission and Cost Allocation rule in 2011, that required regions to do regional planning and X- anti cost allocation, including intraregional planning to help trans – or intraregional coordination excuse me, to help transmission get build. The problem was that for a couple of those principles with the introduction of competitive processes to who would get to build and operate the interstate transmission and those have ended up being far more difficult to implement than was realized, and in many ways they have interfered with the smooth implementation of the rest of the rule. So, I wish we had done more on transmission that really got to build. The second thing is, I think we made progress while I was there, in environmental review in the cases where FERC is the environmental decision maker. FERC is the lead agency under the national environmental policy act for gas pipe lines, hydro-electro facilities and LNG terminals. And over the past three years a lot of work has happened in how FERC should incorporate climate issues into the -- those cases. I wish I had been there to see the next chapter of that story, because I think a lot more has to happen, and there is a lot more that the courts are going to say and that FERC is going to have to do in that area, that will be after my time. 

Jason Bordoff:  I definitely want to ask you about that and I’ll come back to it, but you said, when you talked about you are proud of – in terms of your personal work holding it together in the phase of some increased polarization and partisanship deciding cases not based on politics, but on the merits. I’m just wondering if – is that getting harder for FERC as an institution that for an agency that was seen as fairly, sleepy, back water, people making these independent fact based determinations it’s now right at the center of the climate debate and increasingly – are you concerned as becoming increasingly politicized. 

Cheryl LaFleur:  Well there were two elements that I said I was proud of, one was really trying to decide things by the merits, and I hope that all commissioners do that, and it might get harder but I think it’s equally necessary. But the second was reaching compromises and that is definitely getting harder – was harder for me as well, I dissented a lot more in my last three years, and in my first two years. And it’s not just because there was a different group in the majority, that commission as a whole had more dissents in the last couple years, and in the earlier part of like ten year. I think it’s probably multiple drivers of it, but the key one is that climate change issues had been a wedge issue at the commission. The issue of how the commission is required to take climate into account when approving or considering new pipeline and LNG infrastructure was very, very divisive and led to unfortunately splits that were almost exclusively on partisan lines. 

And I just think it’s unfortunate for the commission to get into partisan voting patterns, because that means, that among other things that the rules may not be as enduring when the white house switches and the composition of the commission switches, an example is a recent rule that was issued after my time, proposing to update the regulations on FERC at the public utility regulatory policies act that was a straight party line vote, unclear if that can be pushed all the way across the finish line with this configuration of the commission. A rule making that as a bipartisan vote is more enduring than one that has a partisan vote and I think that the disagreements on climate consideration it started there, it started there and they started to affect some of the market cases that really starkly shaped the consideration of certain types of technologies like renewable technologies as supposed to base load coal and other fossil technologies, and that was a wedge issue in the government as we are well beyond FERC and it’s spread to FERC as well, so we are seeing a lot more partisan voting that I just don’t think is good for the agency.

Jason Bordoff:  Are you concerned, does that stem from as FERC becomes higher profile, more at the center some of these big national debates, that some of the same forces that perhaps people see as changing the way people think about say appointments to the judiciary you need to maybe pass more of an ideological purity test on one side or the either to get on and on republican side they say no more shooters, there’s something like that, it's not about technocrats who are going to focus on the record in front of them, but is it becoming our appointments to FERC is becoming more politicized and is that going to have implications for FERC down the road?

Cheryl LaFleur: Well, it’s funny, it seems like ever since 2013 when Jon Wellinghoff left and they were figuring out who would be Chairman. I have been reading newspaper stories that say the formerly sleepy on FERC -- I don’t know when that line has a stand to limitations and we are not more -- they are not formerly sleepy anymore. I presume every President tries to choose Commissioners and other appointments that he or she fundamentally agrees with, but I hope there is still a place for the technocratic expert non-political appointment, mean I maybe unusual, but I – I have made no secret to the fact. I got a coal car from the White House, I did not even know there was a  FERC seat open, I was literally driving my car down the street and got a cold call from the White House about being on listed FERC, I had no said _____ [00:12:22] sponsor at that time.

Jason Bordoff:  You were at National Grid at that time or no?

Cheryl LaFleur:  No, I was -- had been retired from National Grid and was just flowing around. I was actually just networking. I had a two year non-compete, when I left National Grid so, I had been out of energy and I was just networking to get back in energy and through one of my networking call someone thought of me and I got a coal call and I had no political sponsorship, I mean I then later called my delegation to get them to introduce me, but I did had no political background and I really went there without a political agenda just like okay, bring on the cases, I want to do a good job and I was really unknown you should read the press at the time I was normally like who is this person, one of them said this person we thought it was going to be someone else for months and bam out of the blue there’s this person that nobody knows, but I hope there is rule for that for people who just start expert and experienced in something and don’t have a political background just go to Washington and be there for a while and be in the government and not everyone has to have worked for an important person on the hill to get a position, I think that’s good for, I mean this is self interest and I think it's good for government to have people come from the weeds and take jobs.

Jason Bordoff:  And we do have obviously this hugely important and urgent issue of climate change, which is one of the drivers of what you were just talking about in terms or some of the politicization or polarization, what do you think the role of FERC should be in moving as toward a lower carbon world and if you had an administration that came in presumably different than this one I think that said, we are going to move as fast as we can to make progress on climate change what would it look like to use FERC as a tool in that tool kit?

Cheryl LaFleur:  Well, first of all I would draw a distinction between the cases on which FERC is a lead environmental agency and the cases where FERC is more of an economic regulator so, first looking at the project cases, gas pipeline, hydroelectric licensing and LNG, FERC is the lead environmental regulator and I think a composition of the commission that was more focused on climate change would more fully embrace the responsibilities that FERC is starting to take on to do a climate review before certificating a new pipeline including looking at the downstream greenhouse gas emissions of the gas that will be transported and combusted, this is pretty much the only reason you transport gases is to burn it unless you are using it in a manufacturing process and you can figure out the climate implications of that too.

And I think a climate focused FERC would complete that job be guided by the courts, because those cases will continue to go to the courts and try to figure out it is not easy, how the build out of gas infrastructure which we need to serve customers plays in a climate constraint rules world. I use to fantasize what if Waxman-Markey had passed and we had carbon analysis.  How would we be doing this? We just be saying hey, you are building a pipeline do you have enough analysis for that power point at the end. Oh! Good, you all set with the analysis now we are done. If we had some sort of National Policy it would be much different, but I think that’s one thing that would change in FERC. On the electric side and the gas and oil rate side FERC is not the primary environmental regulator, they are not the EPA and FERC is more of a facilitator so, as new technologies are introduced that have a more but not any impact on the climate, how do we make sure they fairly compete in the markets?  How does FERC make sure they are fairly prized, I think that work would certainly continue as new technologies come along and I think the $6400 question is what would FERC do with carbon prizing in the markets. I'm on record, that I think FERC does have the jurisdiction to look at a wholesale prize that includes some kind of carbon valuation, if it was brought to FERC with enough support to show was just reasonable, just as the wholesale markets include the cost for _____ [00:16:45] and carb, the two carbon valuations schemes that we have now. I think if the New York ISO or another agent, another transmission planning region, brought a carbon proposal to FERC, FERC does have the authority to entertain that proposal and approve or deny it that will surely be tested in the course if that happens. I am of the view that FERC does not have the affirmative authority to say, dear electric transmission operators or dear electric industry, please prize carbon in all your sales of electricity signed FERC, I think personally that might not survive judicial review but some people disagree.

Jason Bordoff:  Let me ask you about both of those things, you mentioned the sort of – role of natural gas and then energy transition and the role of FERC in looking at it twice now, and it’s really important and as you know controversial issue, you were talking about just to be so clear, so people understand the environmental reviews of this question of life cycle analysis and when you are proving LNG export facility or a pipeline looking at the total life cycle emissions impact of that, correct?

Cheryl LaFleur:  Yeah.

Jason Bordoff:  And so one question is just FERC’s ability to do that you export natural gas, we saw over the last say, two or three years trying to put in place significant policy to reduce the use of coal for heat and coal fire boilers and as a result saw annual increase is a 50% you and your LNG Imports, it's a very integrated dynamic global system and when you put more gas into the system you are going – may be going to squeeze out renewable of nuclear and that could increase emissions, you could squeeze coal that could reduce it, how does FERC do that analysis?

Cheryl LaFleur:  Well, that’s a hard question, but let me just start by a kind of a general comment that I really saw a change in the attitude to natural gas in my nine years at FERC, for the first several years we took it as axiomatic that natural gas was an environmental hero. I made speeches about how the gas pipelines were helping the coal, the gas transmission that were saving so many greenhouse gas emissions and as you will know during the Obama administration the department of energy put out a study showing that the life cycle GHG of exporting natural gas had the tendency to reduce GHG impacts in the consuming countries and so we just thought we were on the lower side in building out natural gas to replace coal, what happened over the last few years is as the renewable achieved commercial scale increasingly and people began to look at some of the deep decarburization goals that were being put forward, people said wait a minute isn’t gas also a fossil fuel. I had somebody in my office say to me you know, we realize that gas emits methane, but did you know _____ [00:19:39] that gas pipelines emit methane, I said, you know, what I'm not an engineer, but I am pretty sure natural gas is methane. No methane is a pollutant that comes from gas that you have to worry about so, all of a sudden this light bulb went on that maybe gas was bad and that’s what we are dealing with now, that it’s a – seems like an either role, well in fact the answer is more complicated okay back to your question so, for domestic --

Jason Bordoff:  And that’s a really important point --

Cheryl LaFleur:  Well --

Jason Bordoff:  I mean there has been a significant --

Cheryl LaFleur:  The zeitgeist has definitely switched.

Jason Bordoff:  Increased concern and questions about the role of gas not in achieving incremental emission reductions but deep decarburization, and I’ll just say as an enactor when we launch the center on global energy policy seven years ago now we had Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a key note speaker. And he gave a talk about the role of natural gas and reducing not just carbon emissions but air pollution which in, I grew up in New York City and you had black smoke belching into the air from the use of oil for heat and we got rid of that in part because we use natural gas instead an obviously Mayor Bloomberg has just put half a billion dollars of his own money into trying to move beyond oil and gas.

Cheryl LaFleur:  Yes, well, I mean, in the clean power plant in the Obama Administration coal to gas change out were by -- was by far the biggest driver of the reductions in the clean power plant but yes, people are now thinking pass that of how do we get from gas to something else --

Jason Bordoff:  But what does that mean so, talking about what it means for help FERC does its work today because we’re not there yet.

Cheryl LaFleur:  Well so, I want to draw a distinction between pipelines and LNG terminal so, four pipe lines that have a domestic source and a domestic terminus. It’s at least theoretically possible for FERC to figure out to ask the applicant, I believe for FERC to ask the applicant who seeks to build the pipeline where you are getting your gas and who you are selling it to and what are they going to use it for. And if you don’t know ask them what they are going to use it for to the best of FERC’s ability there is modeling available and so forth so, in the first instance if for the first many years natural gases replacing coal you could model that if in fact there is already adequate natural gas to a region and you can't prove that it’s replacing anything you could model that and try to do the best that FERC could do under the environmental impact review of NIPA for figuring out the incremental climate impact of that gas pipeline it won’t be easy and as with anything else that FERC takes on that’s complicated they will have to hire people and do methodology and tested out and go to courts and so forth to figure out how to do it. But FERC has done a lot of other complicated things and figured it out away. 

Now LNG is a different proposition because unfortunately or fortunately FERC only reviews the appurtenant pipeline and the terminal. It’s the department of energy that reviews the actually export of the molecules to some other country where they’ll be consumed so it’s difficult to say the direct GHG impacts of this terminal from the liquefaction process are X and let’s balance them against the benefits, Oh! we don’t have any authority over the benefits that’s difficult to do that balance, I tried to at least get the direct impacts disclosed and known as part of our review but really if FERC were attempting to -- if the administration went large were attempting to take climate very seriously FERC and DOE would have to do something together or DOE would have to take onboard the look at the climate impacts at the end of the shipping route and what was happening to the LNG but just as even there it’s not simple because the shipment to free trade countries is deemed in the public interest by congress so, even if it were a betting climate was as of the law right now that’s not something DOE could stop but the non free trade countries DOE could look at what was happening to it FERC --

Jason Bordoff:  And this is becoming as you said sort of a focal point obviously there’s huge amount of public opposition and protest especially gas pipelines in this area in the northeast and stuff do you see and then I mean you on the receiving end of that and even protest outside your home that was the level of passion around this --

Cheryl LaFleur:  Yes, there is –

Jason Bordoff:  And that changed over that you're ten year at FERC.

Cheryl LaFleur:  There’s clearly a level of passion and we have certainly seen hard end protest against natural gas infrastructure and unfortunately just as aside we’re also saying people opposed even to the electric infrastructure that you need to deliver location constraint renewable which would offset the need for natural gas so people on one level people don’t like things build near them and that’s a phenomenon but the -- and that has always been the case but what’s happened more recently is that the national climate activist moment has settled on gas pipelines as a element of this system to protest and yes there’s more –

Jason Bordoff:  What was that like just for you sort of being in the focal point of that – that kind of activism again protesters showing up where you are including your house?

Cheryl LaFleur:  I certainly respected their passion and I personally try to take it and stride when they blocked the street outside FERC or came into the hearing room, because that’s the government and people should be allowed to protest. I think the difficulty of the -- the protest at our home and so forth is we were not set up initially with any kind of security or I mean who would ever think that FERC commission needs security most people couldn’t name one if you gave them a million dollars, so we didn’t have drivers and secret service agents and so it was, it’s jarring to think that we would have to think about people being there when we came home from work, but it certainly was the sign of the – the extreme passion that people had around the issue.

Jason Bordoff:  I want to ask you about the -- you were talking about gas, you were also talking about the role of FERC in electricity, big discussion of increase distributed energy, how electricity is going to be priced, the future utilities what’s in the news today and when we think about the future of utilities is kind of what’s happening in California and PG&E and I'm curious for your thoughts on what brought us to where we are today and also what the solution is about breaking up the entity about their municipalisation and should it be public and what does that mean for other utilities across the country?

Cheryl LaFleur:  Well I feel a little bit like who was that said they got 99 problems, but that in one, it’s a difficult choice that California has to make about how they’re going to deliver electricity in that state with the situation their facing now. I think the situation with Pacific Gas and Electric partly stems from specific things that happen with that company and historical issues they had that are -- that are specific to Pacific Gas and Electric that will be dealt with there, but I think there is a larger if you step up a level there is a larger issue of, it’s more difficult to distribute and transmit electricity above ground the way we have historically done, and a -- an environment where there is a lot more wildfires and some way shape or form the people that need the electricity or the government are the only sources of how we are going to pay to build a system that can be delivered. We either have to mitigate climate and reduce the wildfires which is not a straight line or find a way to deliver electricity safely. I don’t think anyone thinks of training people off for days at a time is a long run solution. I think people are looking at under grounding more wires or more distributed microgrids or other ways to address the issue, but it’s going to cost money and that money is going to come someway shape or form either in electric bills however they are designed or from the society as a whole I think.

Jason Bordoff:  And the electricity system obviously is changing so rapidly and dramatically and-and very important in terms of what we see and trying to achieve our carbon reduction targets with increased renewable, increased for sources of distributed energies so the grids changing more distributed and more sources of electricity with -- with higher up run cost but lower operating cost because the fuel is not the primary cost. What does that mean for how we need to price energy, regulate utilities and what role does FERC play in all of that?

Cheryl LaFleur:  Well another interesting question because what we are seeing is technologically more technologies on the customer side of the meter and attached to distribution wires that are regulated at the state level are collectively behaving like a wholesale power plant, whether it’s demand response people with their car batteries ultimately turning them on and off as storage or rooftop solar things that are happening at the distribution level are very much affecting things that are happening at the wholesale level and we have a disaggregated federal system where the FERC and other aspects of the federal government control the wholesale level and the state regulators and municipal regulators for the public power control the retail level and a lot has to be worked out in terms of figuring out how to pay the distributed energy resources in a fair way when they have value at both the wholesale and the retail level, but beyond that I think we’re just seeing as the – the way people consume energy changes and the way we make energy changes that the entire premise of how we price energy is being reexamined. We have taken it for granted for decades that electricity is a volumetric product, you pay it by the kilowatt hour that was primarily driven by the fact that a major input to the variable cost to electricity was a fuel and that’s volumetric.

If you are not consuming fuel to make a lot of your electricity if you're either during rooftop solar on your house so whenever reading goes into the system as a demand or using central station window solar at the wholesale level to meet the demand then volumetric pricing might not be as ordained anymore, because we are seeing that the supply curves are lot flatter, the gas is cheap, so much that we use to think that, you had your base load, your intermediate and your peaking plans and if you're a baseball fan it was like the starting pictures to set up man and closers, everyone knew who they were, and you brought in the peaker at the most trust time and usually that or always that was also the most expensive time, your peaker was the most expensive and then during those load peaks the inframarginal rents would shower down all the base load and help keep the system running, but now those peaks have largely been shaved because natural gas is so cheap all the time that you don’t have as many pricing peaks in most of the country and the load you don’t even the – the middle of the day peak and all the air conditioning and on in places like California and increasing other parts of the country is met by renewables that are putting any cost on the system. So I think we are going to have if you need to keep nonrenewable electricity generation around for when the lights have to come on when the sun goes down or the wind starts blowing, paying it just by volumetric peaks is obviously not going to work.

Or seeing people we look at the energy in our capacity markets of perhaps paying differently for reserves paying for ramping paying for carbon paying for century liability services like voltage support and so forth, paying in a different way and I give the analogy when I grew up it was axiomatic that long distance was volumetric, you couldn’t talk more than three minutes or it would cost a lot of money and nobody thinks if their phone is volumetric anymore just use it 24 hours a day if you want for a flat feel perhaps electricity is trending in that direction.

Jason Bordoff:  The students listening have no idea what you are talking about?

Cheryl LaFleur:  No.

Jason Bordoff:  The other thing that we may well need to do to get to these deep decarbonization goals is as states ramp up their goals for low carbon energy and renewables coordinate more amongst themselves and so we saw Texas achieve pretty high wind penetration it was able to do that within a state you know ERCOT without crossing state lines and that is easier in some respects, so what can FERC do to sort of help coordinate and allow that grid integration to happen.

Cheryl LaFleur:  Well of course, FERC has done a lot with its tariffs, with small generator and large generator interconnection agreements and so forth to help get the rules in place for renewable generation integrate, but I think part of what you are talking about relates to the resource choices that different states are making and in the parts of the country PJM, New York ISO and ISO New England were the -- many of the states have moved to a merchant model where they don’t have vertical integration and all of the – the wholesale resources paid for by the market. The markets are working to adapt to a system in which the states are making choices that might not be the choices made by the market either the choice to retain certain resources to meet the climate goal or to meet an economic goal or the choice to build new resources whether or not they are called for by the market particularly large off shore wind plants. And all of the eastern markets are with FERC figuring out how to adapt to those states imperatives.

It would be far better in my view if there were a national carbon target rather than 23 states setting individual targets because the national target could be it would work smoothly across state lines and not every state is as large as Texas that only one is Alaska, so if you're Rhode Island trying to meet your -- your renewable goals you are certainly not going to do with trust your wind within states lines the way Texas did. And you have to deal with the regional market and so clearly a national goal would be – international goal would be my first choice, national is of course second and regional collaboration to work around regional goals with things like the regional greenhouse gas initiative which now we see Virginia may join with the new administration is third, rather than specific disaggregated stickles. 

Jason Bordoff:  Now there’s a couple left and so we don’t have enough time to go as deeply into this issue as I would like but I do want to ask you how concern should we be the -- about the cyber security vulnerability to the grid right now and what's being done to deal with that?

Cheryl LaFleur:  Well, I certainly think people who work on the grid, should be concerned, because the electric grid is the ultimate critical infrastructure fortunately the electric grid is one of the few pieces of critical infrastructure that’s protected by mandatory Cyber Security Standards only the national nuclear fleet and the high voltage electric grid have mandatory standards right now, but it's definitely work in progress, because the threats are emerging and evolving much more rapidly than FERC can regulate and keep up with so, that it requires really constant vigilance and engineering the the system in a way with redundancy and backups and so forth in the event of any kind of a cyber problem it definitely, I don’t think John Q. Public should probably worry more about the strength of his or her own passwords and how he does his own work and can't be responsible for the high voltage grid, but it's definitely something that policy maker should be focused on.

Jason Bordoff:  And the private sector needs to be more focused on?

Cheryl LaFleur:  I think they need to be accepting of the cost of protecting the grid, because they will ultimately pay it.

Jason Bordoff:  What's next for you, I guess you, you have joined New England ISO, the independent system operator, member of the board, maybe tell us why you chose that and what else you are going to do next?

Cheryl LaFleur:  Well, I pretty much have decided not to get a single full time job, all though my husband says I flunked retirement already so, maybe I might as well got a single full time job, I keep myself busy full time, but I, you can only be on one public utility board under the FERC  interlock rules. And I thought a regional market board would be at the epicenter a lot of the issues that I'm most interested in which is how the markets and the infrastructure evolve with the changes in the grid and the changes in our resource mix. So that fascinated me and that’s why I was fortunate to be asked to join the board of the independent system operator of New England beyond that I am staying involved in energy on a day to day bases doing a lot of public speaking and meeting and convening and I will see what comes next in terms of further assignments.

Jason Bordoff:  Well, I'm sure whatever it will be, it will be as impactful and the interesting as your career and public service. And thank you again for your service at FERC for so long for nearly a decade. Cheryl LaFleur, thank you so much for making time to be with us again today, on Columbia Energy Exchange. 

Cheryl LaFleur:  Thank you.

Jason Bordoff:  And thanks to all of you for listening for more information about Columbia Energy Exchange and the center on Global Energy Policy visit us online at or follow us on social media at columbiauenergy. Thanks for listening, I am Jason Bordoff, we will see you next week