Bernard McNamee’s record is so biased toward fossil fuels that it should disqualify his nomination to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The U.S. Senate must reject his nomination in order to maintain the Commission’s integrity and the public’s trust.

For FERC to serve its critical role under the Federal Power Act, it must be a technology-neutral agency whose decisions are based on expert analysis and fair, transparent processes that ensure reasonable electricity prices and energy reliability for the public. McNamee, on the other hand, has no experience regulating electricity markets on the state or federal level. Instead, he has a long history of being a partisan fossil fuel lawyer who has proactively worked to undermine clean energy’s growth.

ADVERTISEMENT

The most egregious example of this was his central involvement in the development of a scheme designed to bail out old, expensive coal and nuclear power plants during his time at the Department of Energy on Secretary of Energy Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryThe Senate must reject Bernard McNamee’s nomination for FERC Overnight Energy: Coal consumption on track for four-decade low | Greens sue for records of EPA chief's meetings | Zinke picks fight with key Dem at odd time | White House jumps into energy subsidies fight Perry to visit Saudi Arabia, Qatar MORE’s staff. Seeking to blunt the fast growing clean energy sector and placate the wealthy coal executives supporting Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Trump says he's considering 10 to 12 contenders for chief of staff Michael Flynn asks judge to spare him from jail time MORE, McNamee drew up a plan for FERC to implement that would have forced electricity customers to pay billions of dollars to prop up uneconomic coal and nuclear plants that could no longer compete against cheaper competitors like solar and wind.

The response was swift and unforgiving, and created rare alignment among frequent energy policy opponents, who unanimously pointed to the fact that the bailout would destroy the marketplace, increase costs, and stunt private investment. McNamee’s bailout proposal would have cost electricity customers an estimated $250 billion over a quarter century and resulted in 27,000 premature deaths due to the pollution caused by running dirty coal plants that ordinarily would be replaced by cleaner, cheaper generation.

After months of intense criticism, FERC rightly and unanimously rejected it -- a huge relief to consumers, public health providers, and stakeholders across the electricity sector. However, a memo leaked this summer revealed that a revival of that failed scheme is expected to come before FERC again soon. Fast forward to last month’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on McNamee’s nomination, and everyone’s fears came crashing back down once again. Any hope that McNamee had just been doing his job as a DOE staffer when he designed the horrendous coal bailout evaporated during his testimony, when he showed his true colors by flatly rejecting calls to recuse himself from future coal bailout schemes that may come before FERC.

To make matters worse, immediately after this irresponsible refusal to follow basic ethics protocols if he was seated, a video tape surfaced that was released by Utility Dive, in which McNamee brazenly promoted fossil fuels, derided clean energy resources, and slandered environmental and public health groups for holding polluters accountable. Despite these massive red flags, the chairwoman of the Senate committee, Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate advances Trump energy pick after Manchin flips The Senate must reject Bernard McNamee’s nomination for FERC Overnight Defense: Congress pauses to mourn George H.W. Bush | Haspel to brief senators on Khashoggi killing | Soldier is fourth to die from Afghan IED blast MORE (R-Alaska), recklessly let his nomination move forward to a full Senate vote. Murkowski’s decision is all the more troubling considering that she rejected Ron Binz’s FERC nomination in 2013 because she perceived a bias in his past work on clean energy. Yet she was willing to overlook McNamee’s overt devotion to fossil fuels and antipathy toward America’s clean energy revolution.

There is time, however, to overrule this egregious double standard by having the full Senate reject Bernard McNamee’s nomination to FERC. Allowing McNamee to sit on FERC would be a grave mistake that would undermine the Commission’s historic technology neutral posture, and create fertile ground for another coal bailout attempt -- but this time, one of the referees will be a former star quarterback that’s rooting for one team over another. McNamee has clearly proven through his work and his own words that he is nothing more than a fossil fuel surrogate intent on undermining, or even eliminating clean energy from America’s electricity markets. We can’t let that happen. The Senate must reject his nomination.

Mary Anne Hitt is Senior Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.