Trump’s energy agency nominee backs fossil fuels in battle with renewables and green groups

Former think tank official Bernard McNamee views fossil fuels as key to a clean environment.


FERC nominee Bernard McNamee speaks at a February 2018 conference sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. CREDIT: screenshot
FERC nominee Bernard McNamee speaks at a February 2018 conference sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. CREDIT: screenshot


President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill a vacant seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) told a conference in February that the fossil fuel industry needs to be better at explaining to the American public that “fossil fuels are not something dirty.”

In a speech at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation’s (TPPF) Policy Orientation for Texas lawmakers, FERC nominee Bernard McNamee emphasized that fossil fuels are not a form energy from which the nation should move away.

The video of McNamee’s speech, first reported by Utility Dive, is raising eyebrows because FERC oversees bulk power markets and regulates interstate electricity transmission — and has taken a fuel-neutral approach to its regulation of competitive power markets. The video of McNamee’s speech was allegedly removed from TPPF’s website after he was nominated in early October to serve on FERC.

Many clean energy supporters also have become concerned that the commission has been favoring pipelines over cleaner energy infrastructure. And environmentalists fear McNamee, if approved to the position, would help push Trump’s efforts to bail out coal.

The fossil fuel industry and its supporters need to help policymakers and the public understand that fossil fuels are “key not only to our prosperity” but “to a clean environment,” the video shows McNamee saying at the February conference. At the time, he was working as head of the TPPF’s Center for Tenth Amendment Action and its Life:Powered project, a pro-fossil fuel program.

McNamee’s description of the impact of fossil fuels on the environment stands in stark contrast to the views of scientists who have overwhelmingly concluded that burning coal, natural gas, and oil have significantly contributed to increased carbon dioxide levels over the past 60 years.

The extraction and burning of coal, oil, and natural gas also creates huge levels of pollution that causes irreversible damage to the environment and harms human health.

McNamee’s comments at the February conference, however, in no way resembled what he told lawmakers last week at his Senate confirmation hearing. The FERC nominee, for example, did not mention his bias in favor of burning fossil fuels.

Furthermore, when asked whether his advocacy work for fossil fuels at the TPPF and his support for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) coal and nuclear support plan would unduly influence his work if he is confirmed to the commission, McNamee said: “I can honestly say that I will be in an independent arbiter.”



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