Senate will vote on FERC nominee next week

Source: Jeremy Dillon, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, November 30, 2018

The Senate is readying to vote next week on the nomination of President Trump’s controversial pick to fill the last spot on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

With Republican support, that likely means Bernard McNamee, the current executive director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Policy, could be ready to join the commission by the end of next week.

“They are, as I understand it, going to be moving toward that Monday, Tuesday,” Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told E&E News this afternoon.

Shortly after she spoke, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed for cloture on the pick.

The timeline would represent a speedy confirmation for McNamee despite waves of outrage from Democrats and environmental groups because of his previous work at DOE on the administration’s coal and nuclear bailout policy proposal.

McNamee moved out of the ENR committee Tuesday and could see a final floor vote a little over a week later — a breakneck confirmation pace, particularly in the current Senate.

The majority of Democrats are unlikely to support McNamee and appear willing to drag out the process as much as possible. The committee vote largely fell on party lines, 13-10, with only Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joining Republicans (Greenwire, Nov. 28).

“We are going to have to go through the cloture motion,” Murkowski acknowledged. That process would require 30 hours of debate between the cloture vote and final vote, unless there is unanimous consent.

Democrats, led by ENR ranking member Maria Cantwell of Washington, have been critical of McNamee’s previous work and advocacy of Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s effort to help struggling coal and nuclear plants better compete against an influx of cheap natural gas and renewables.

That opposition has only grown more severe with the emergence of a video earlier this month of a speech McNamee gave in February at an event put on by the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Those remarks included harsh criticism of renewable energy and calls for an increased promotion of the use of fossil fuels. McNamee has vowed to remain fuel-neutral in his decisionmaking at FERC.

Reporter Geof Koss contributed.