Senate confirms FERC pick

Source: Jeremy Dillon, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, December 7, 2018

President Trump’s pick to fill out the last open spot on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission earned Senate confirmation today as Republicans stuck together to move the nomination on a 50-49 party-line vote.

Bernard McNamee, the executive director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Policy, may now join the commission, although it remains unclear when he will officially be sworn in. McNamee will serve under a term expiring June 30, 2020.

McNamee’s confirmation process has moved at light speed despite Democratic concerns that his previous work in DOE’s Office of the General Counsel to advance a controversial policy proposal to aid struggling coal and nuclear plants may impede his ability to remain impartial.

Those fears were only compounded when a video emerged last month showing McNamee disparage renewable energy deployment and environmental group advocacy campaigns during remarks in February before the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

“At a time when our country is plagued by wildfires and flooding, at a time when more powerful storms and hurricanes buffet our coasts, at a time when average Americans are feeling the devastating effects of climate change right now, we should not elevate someone so biased in favor of the fossil fuels that caused these problems in the first place,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) ahead of today’s vote.

Those video comments even flipped his lone Democratic supporter, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Manchin voted to advance the nomination out of committee but went against McNamee on the floor, claiming the video remarks conflicted with the need for federal officials to get serious about climate change.

But for Republicans, McNamee’s more recent vows of a fuel-neutral worldview have superseded his previous comments, especially with the need for a full slate of commissioners to ensure continued consideration of a backlog of energy priorities at the commission.

“If we confirm Mr. McNamee, FERC will once again have a full complement of five commissioners on that agency,” Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said yesterday. “They have a lot of work to do. The responsibilities are hard. Making sure that they are at full speed must be a priority.”

FERC’s next commission meeting is scheduled for Dec. 20. It remains unclear whether McNamee will be in a position to participate in that meeting.