Name emerges for FERC

Source: By KELSEY TAMBORRINO0, Politico • Posted: Friday, August 10, 2018

President Donald Trump’s anticipated pick is already familiar with one of the biggest issues he would face if confirmed to fill the FERC seat: The administration’s efforts to rescue economically struggling coal and nuclear power plants. Sources have said the issue served as a key litmus test for Trump administration officials evaluating a replacement for Powelson, and McNamee helped roll out Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal on the topic last year. FERC eventually voted down the plan in January, but the administration is considering additional options such as invoking rarely used emergency powers that may wind up before FERC once McNamee arrives.

McNamee, who runs DOE’s Office of Policy, discussed the administration’s plans for the grid at a congressional hearing last month. Trump and Perry’s concern is that “a lot of the organized markets have distortions in them that aren’t representative of an actual free serving market,” McNamee told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “So, the thought is in that sense you need to remove some of those distortions and get some more parity.” He also noted the president had asked DOE to examine the national security implications of an attack on the grid but pointed out that no emergency orders had been issued.

It remains unclear when Trump will formally nominate McNamee, but Eric and Darius report the vetting process is still underway and it will be several months before the Senate is likely to confirm him.

Powelson, whose last day is Friday, says his replacement should know how to work with the states. “If asked, I would say that it is incumbent to look at someone that’s got a firm understanding of the state regulatory complex,” the departing commissioner said on a FERC podcast released Wednesday. For his part, McNamee has held posts at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and McGuireWoods and was chief of staff to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and an aide to Sen. Ted Cruz.

During his time at Texas Public Policy Foundation, McNamee penned a pro-fossil fuels op-ed for The Hill marking Earth Day. “We have been told that fossil fuels are wrecking the environment and our health,” he writes. “The facts are that life expectancy, population and economic growth all began to increase dramatically when fossil fuels were harnessed — and have continued to do so for the 200 years since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.” (h/t UtilityDive’s Gavin Bade)