Trump loyalist Bernard McNamee will have his Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee confirmation hearing to become a FERC commissioner on Thursday.
by Karen Feridun
Originally published at Daily Kos 11/10/18 · 11:24 PM EST
It’s no longer remarkable when Trump appoints the worst imaginable person to an important federal post. Bernard McNamee is among the latest to be dredged from the depths of his talent pool. On Thursday, he will be before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as Trump’s nominee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the five-member panel that regulates the nation’s energy market and reviews interstate natural gas transmission pipeline and other fracked gas infrastructure proposals.
In an Earth Day op-ed for The Hill earlier this year, McNamee wrote, “America is blessed with an abundant supply of affordable natural gas, oil and coal. When we celebrate Earth Day, we should consider the facts, not the political narrative, and reflect about how the responsible use of America’s abundant resources of natural gas, oil and coal have dramatically improved the human condition — and continue to do so.” Yes, Bernard McNamee is a climate denier, but not just your run-of-the-mill climate denier. He’s a pro.
McNamee was midway through a four-month stint at the Texas Public Policy Foundation when he wrote his op-ed, serving as head of two of the their initiatives, the Center for Tenth Amendment Action and Life:Powered. According to a TPPF press release, his job in the former was to “focus on applying the Texas Model of individual liberty, fiscal responsibility and free-market reforms to federal policy, in the areas of health care, taxes, and spending.” In the latter, his task was to “reframe the discussion about energy sources.”
TPPF is a right-wing think tank whose many donors include the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the Charles Koch Institute, the Heartland Institute, and Exxon Mobil. DeSmogBlog created a downloadable spreadsheet of TPPF’s donors linked to from its Life:Powered overview. It is part of the State Policy Network, a network of more than 150 members founded at the urging of Ronald Reagan. According to Sourcewatch, ” SPN groups operate as the policy, communications, and litigation arm of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), giving the cookie-cutter ALEC agenda a sheen of academic legitimacy and state-based support.” ALEC is the bill mill responsible for the bills criminalizing pipeline protest that have turned up in more than 30 states.
Another ALEC bill, the one aimed at overturning Obamacare, was written by then-SPN fellow, Ted Cruz, according to the Center for Media and Democracy. For a year and a half starting in 2013, McNamee served as Senior Domestic Policy Advisor and Counsel to Senator Cruz in charge of policy deployment in the areas of energy, environment, healthcare, taxes, labor and employment, agriculture and transportation.
Hopscotching throughout his career, McNamee also spent more than 7 non-consecutive years representing the oil and gas industry for the firm McGuireWoods LLP. More important, his TPPF gig was bookended by posts at the Department of Energy, first spending 10 months as Deputy General Counsel for Energy Policy and returning after his 4 months away at TPPF as the Executive Director of the Office of Policy.
Rick Perry, who was the Governor of Texas before he became Secretary of the Department of Energy, has close ties to both TPPF and its founder, Texas billionaire Dr. James Leininger. In 2011, Texans for Public Justice issued a report called Rick Perry’s Heavenly Host about his relationship with Perry and the Christian Right retreat he’d organized to raise campaign contributions for his friend. Perry had, after all, donated the proceeds of his 2010 book, Fed Up, to TPPF. But, of course, they’d published it… Anyway, even though Perry has moved on to the DOE, a search of Perry and TPPF will turn up links to his listings as both a TPPF staff member and expert.
It’s no surprise that McNamee has been so willing to parrot Perry on coal and nuclear subsidies. Last November, or three jobs ago for McNamee, he made the case to the Consumer Energy Alliance on behalf of the DOE. His willingness to push the Trump/Perry agenda distinguishes him from the current FERC commissioners who opposed it unanimously. And it distinguishes him from the commissioner he’d replace. Robert Powelson’s departure less than a year after being appointed raised questionsabout what role his vocal opposition to bailouts played.
Tyson Slocum, Energy Program Director at Public Citizen said that McNamee’s naming was a “clear move to support this hair[sic]-brained scheme,” and that “the White House is going to make sure they don’t have buyer’s remorse” with this nomination after being countered by all three of the Republicans appointed last year.
McNamee is a loyalist who, it turns out, hasn’t hopscotched nearly as much as his resume would indicate. He’s had the same job for several years, regardless of who has issued the paycheck. And that’s what makes his appointment to FERC so dangerous. More dangerous than his willingness to deny climate change or promote Trump’s dirty energy policies is the sum of his parts. He is an ideologue who has no compunction about promoting an agenda that leads to cataclysm.
Last year, the Senate ignored public opposition to Powelson, Chatterjee, and Trump’s other Republican appointee, Kevin McIntyre. Since a quorum was reestablished in August, the Commissioners have approved 39 pipeline projects. Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported that we have, conservatively, 12 years left to address climate change. We have seen summer weather extremes that have extended into the autumn and have learned from climate experts like Michael Mann that we cannot consider this the new normal, that things will only get worse. We have seen pipelines explode, one that took out parts of three cities in the Merrimack Valley, another that blew up earlier the same week in Pennsylvania one week after it went into operation. We have learned that a landslide caused by climate-enhanced flooding rains caused the week-old pipeline to fail catastrophically and that we can no longer anticipate what standards must be met to build the safest possible pipeline when aspirational goals like being able to sustain a 1,000-year flood have no relevance after Ellicott City, Maryland was hit with one two years in a row.
It is past time that members of the Senate connect the dots and recognize that appointments like McNamee’s have consequences. They must reject McNamee.
(On Tuesday, organizations will deliver a petition you can sign here to members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee.)
Karen Feridun is a founding member of Pennsylvania's Better Path Coalition & founder of Berks Gas Truth.