McConnell moves McNamee FERC vote to Wednesday
Update: Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday moved the cloture vote for the nomination of Bernard McNamee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to Wednesday at 4 p.m. EST.
The delay in the vote, originally scheduled for Monday at 5:30, is due to ceremonies in the Capitol for former President George H.W. Bush, who died on Friday, according to a spokesperson from the office of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Utility Dive's original post follows.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday filed for cloture on the nomination of Department of Energy official Bernard McNamee to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, setting up a vote on the controversial nominee next week.
McConnell's action came despite the recent release of a February video showing McNamee criticizing renewable energy and environmental groups that regularly do business before FERC. Democrats say the comments and McNamee's past work on a coal and nuclear plant bailout at DOE should disqualify him from the commission.
Republican control of the Senate means McNamee is likely to be confirmed to a term ending in June 2020. If he is renominated by Trump at that time, he could serve on the commission until 2025.
McConnell's decision to file cloture on McNamee's nomination indicates the Senate will likely move quickly to confirm him, despite mounting concerns among Democrats and clean energy advocates that he is biased toward fossil fuels and against renewables.
Last week, Utility Dive posted a video of McNamee speaking at a conference in February while working at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank.
In the speech, McNamee told Texas lawmakers that renewables "mess up the whole physics of the grid" and portrayed legal battles with environmental groups as a "constant battle between liberty and tyranny."
He also questioned the scientific consensus around climate change, calling carbon dioxide not a "real pollutant" and telling the audience that he instructs his son to "just deny it" when climate change comes up in science class.
Democrats and some former FERC staffers say the comments show McNamee does not have the proper temperament for the agency, whose members historically prided themselves on nonpartisan, "fuel neutral" regulation.
Republicans, however, have pushed McNamee's confirmation forward quickly. McConnell's cloture filing Thursday came only two days after the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee moved to approve McNamee — a vote held less than two weeks after his confirmation hearing.
At that Tuesday vote, Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski called McNamee's February comments "unfortunate" but said they were not disqualifying.
"Some suggested this video is sufficient to warrant a vote against Mr. McNamee," Murkowski said during the committee meeting. "I'm looking at it in the context in which I have seen it — as one speech from an event 10 months ago, just his second day in a new job out in Texas."
McNamee also enjoys the support of some Republican allies of clean energy, like Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, an ENR committee member whose state has a large and growing wind power industry.
"I spoke with McNamee about his support for clean energy and my support for clean energy," Gardner told Utility Dive on Wednesday. He declined to respond when asked if he'd watched the newly released video.
If McNamee is confirmed by the full Senate, he will fill the remainder of a term vacated by former Commissioner Robert Powelson in August, when he stepped down to run a water company trade group. The term expires in June 2020, which Harvard energy law professor Ari Peskoe noted would allow Trump to nominate McNamee for another five year term before the presidential election.
He could easily be a FERC Commissioner until 2025 https://t.co/du48udeFNq— Ari Peskoe (@AriPeskoe) November 29, 2018
Follow Gavin Bade on Twitter