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Senate confirms Trump pick for energy commission seat

Senate confirms Trump pick for energy commission seat
© Greg Nash

The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm James Danly as a commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). 

The chamber voted 52-40 to confirm President TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE’s pick for a Republican seat on the commission that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil.

"Mr. Danly has an impressive academic and professional background," said Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump impeachment trial to begin week of Feb. 8 Murkowski didn't vote for Trump, won't join Democrats Trump impeachment article being sent to Senate Monday MORE (R-Alaska), who spoke in the chamber in favor of the nomination. "This is the type of individual who knows his stuff, has a great grasp and a keen understanding of these energy related matters."

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Danly’s nomination was somewhat controversial, as, in a break from tradition, a Democrat was not nominated alongside him to fill a vacant Democratic seat on the five-member board. 

“Past presidents have sent nominations to fill both [seats] at the same time. I am deeply disappointed this has not happened this time. The politics involved in this town is outrageous,” said Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden EPA asks Justice Dept. to pause defense of Trump-era rules | Company appeals rejection of Pebble Mine | Energy pick Granholm to get hearing Wednesday Nomination hearing for Biden Energy pick Granholm set for Wednesday Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief MORE (D-W.Va.), who nevertheless expressed support for Danly’s nomination, while speaking on the Senate floor. 

Prior to his confirmation, Danly was serving as FERC’s general counsel. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has raised a separate concern about Danly, saying he may have given bad ethics advice to FERC commissioners who had ties to the industries they regulate and requesting an investigation. 

“Issues have been raised related to inconsistent and inaccurate ethics advice provided by FERC’s Office of General Counsel regarding recusal obligations, waivers requirements, and implementation of the Administration’s ethics pledge,” Schumer wrote in a letter to the inspector general of the Department of Energy (DOE), which oversees  the FERC. 

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Schumer on the Senate Floor on Thursday criticized Danly saying, he "lacks the experience of past nominees and it seems his major qualification is ... deep ties to the energy industry."

Danly has told lawmakers he has “no role whatsoever in the provision of ethics advice,” which he said is solely the role of the agency’s Departmental Ethics Office, which he does not oversee.

Democrats had pressured the White House to pair Danly's nomination with a Democrat to fill another vacant seat on the commission.

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenators vet Buttigieg to run Transportation Department Hillicon Valley: Texas, other states bring antitrust lawsuit against Google | Krebs emphasizes security of the election as senators butt heads | Twitter cracks down on coronavirus vaccine misinformation Senators press federal agencies for more information on Russian cyberattack MORE (D-Wash.), who did not vote because she was working from home after a staffer in her office tested positive for the coronavirus, said in a statement that she would have voted against Danly's confirmation had she been able to attend the vote.

"We saw during the West Coast energy crisis how essential it is that the Commission is balanced and independent and ensures just and reasonable rates at all times," she said.