First Senate vote on FERC nominee tonight

Source: By Jeremy Dillon, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, December 3, 2018

Senate Republicans are looking to confirm President Trump’s controversial pick to fill the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week despite Democratic protests that the nominee could undermine renewable energy deployment.

The chamber will take a key procedural vote on Bernard McNamee at 5:30 p.m. today, where Republicans will likely have the numbers to push forward the current executive director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Policy. A final roll call may come as soon as Wednesday.

While Democrats have been unable to stop the confirmation process from moving forward, lawmakers will look to make the vote as meaningful as possible, including remarks on the floor to raise awareness of some of McNamee’s previous work.

That work involves stops as a political appointee in DOE’s Office of the General Counsel last year, where he helped formulate Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s plan to aid struggling coal and nuclear plants.

Throughout the confirmation process, Democratic lawmakers have pointed to that work as indicative of how McNamee would operate on the commission. FERC ultimately rejected the policy proposal unanimously amid opposition from the renewables and natural sectors (Greenwire, Nov. 15)

“This is like putting the fox inside the chicken coop,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) during McNamee’s Nov. 15 confirmation hearing.

Democrats took additional issue with comments shown in a video that emerged last month of McNamee giving a February speech to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, in which he criticized the use of renewables, the fundraising tactics of environmental groups and the need for more promotion of fossil fuels (E&E News PM, Nov. 20).

In response to that video, McNamee told lawmakers he vowed to remain impartial in his decisionmaking to any fuel sources.

Republicans should have the numbers to advance the McNamee nomination regardless, unless outside issues intervene.

Both Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have promised to make the Senate floor process more difficult as a way of securing votes or briefings on their separate issues.

The two, however, appear to be enabling the consideration of agency nominations, both joining with their Republican colleagues to confirm Kathleen Laura Kraninger to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Should one defect, Republican math still has a backstop in Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who voted with Republicans to advance the McNamee nomination out of committee on a 13-10 vote (Greenwire, Nov. 27).