The United States Senate on Thursday confirmed fossil fuel hawk Bernard McNamee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which regulates interstate electricity and natural gas transmission and sales, a move which has immediately angered environment and clean energy campaigners.
Just yesterday we were praising Democrat Joe Manchin for bucking his traditional allegiance to the fossil fuel industry and voting against approving Bernard L. McNamee to fill the vacant seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. However, Republican control over the Senate ensured McNamee’s passage through, with the eventual vote being approved 50-49 in a vote along party lines.
Bernard McNamee was first offered up to fill the vacant FERC seat in October by President Donald Trump, a move which immediately angered nearly everyone, considering McNamee’s history of fighting against clean energy and for protecting and subsidizing the country’s fossil fuel industry. McNamee was instrumental in designing a plan to subsidize the coal and nuclear industries which was presented by Energy Secretary Rick Perry in October of 2017, but which was then rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in early January after numerous complaints and criticisms were raised with the plan from across the energy sector.
“Mr. McNamee’s bias, so clearly in favor of fossil fuels and against renewables, should disqualify him for this position,” said Rob Cowin, director of government affairs for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in advance of the Senate vote. “What we need is an impartial regulator who will vote in proceedings fairly.
“The only winner here is the coal industry. States with large renewable energy industries, such as Kansas and Iowa, have a lot to lose. His pro-coal stance means down-wind states, like Maine, have a lot to lose from a public health standpoint. He was part of an effort to force ratepayers to prop up expensive, old coal plants, so consumers have a lot to lose”
McNamee’s subsequent elevation to FERC might provide the Trump Administration an avenue through which to try and thread this particular plan to subsidize America’s declining fossil fuel industries.
The Commission published notification of McNamee’s confirmation on Thursday, explaining that he will fill the seat for the remainder of a term that expires on June 30, 2020 — which should at least give those opposed to his elevation some measure of hope.
“Bernard McNamee is joining the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission amid the most dire and urgent reports yet about the increasing destruction from climate change,” said John Moore, director of the Sustainable FERC Project housed within the National Resources Defense Council, in response to McNamee’s confirmation. “He needs to wholeheartedly support FERC’s mission as a fuel-neutral agency, which means not favoring fossil fuels despite his past statements. Costly coal plants have no place in today’s power grid when more affordable and reliable options are available. As America’s interstate energy regulator, FERC is supposed to care about the reliable delivery of electricity at ‘just and reasonable’ rates, not about the source of the electrons powering the grid.”
“It’s shameful that the Senate rushed the confirmation of Bailout Bernard McNamee after video surfaced demonstrating his bias in favor of dirty energy interests,” said Kim Smaczniak, Clean Energy Staff Attorney at Earthjustice. “As we’ve known for some time now, McNamee is a clear threat to the health of our environment who will accelerate the growing trend toward politicization at FERC. Senators should have considered a real, impartial voice for energy markets, not a former dirty industry lobbyist.”