Quantcast

'Conceivably the Worst': Groups, Lawmakers Blast Confirmation of Climate Denier to FERC

Politics
Bernard McNamee testified before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Nov. 15. Ron Wyden / YouTube screenshot

Bernard McNamee, a climate change denier who helped write the Trump administration's failed coal and nuclear bailout plan, was confirmed Thursday as a commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The Senate approved the nominee on a straight party-line vote of 50-49 after Sen. Joe Manchin, the pro-coal Democrat of West Virginia, withdrew his support due to his concerns about McNamee's stance on climate change.


President Trump's nomination of the fossil fuel lawyer as one of the FERC's five commissioners was strongly opposed by environmentalists, public health groups and elected leaders.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a member of the Senate Committee on Environment, noted McNamee's deep ties to the Koch brothers and called his appointment "conceivably the worst" out of Trump's energy appointments.

In a February video posted by Utility Dive, McNamee criticized renewable energy and environmental groups, called carbon dioxide "not a real pollutant" and described fossil fuels as "key to our way of life." He was speaking for the Koch-funded Texas Public Policy Foundation where he worked at the time.

Also during his speech, he said he told his son to "just deny" climate science in school. "I don't care if you get an 'F,'" he said.

As the executive director of the Office of Policy with the Department of Energy, McNamee was the architect of Energy Secretary Rick Perry's $34 billion coal and nuclear bailout proposal that was unanimously rejected by FERC last January. He has hesitated to recuse himself on issues related to the coal bailout scheme he engineered, the Sierra Club noted.

"At a time when consumers, businesses and forward-thinking utilities are embracing the clean energy revolution, we don't need a FERC commissioner who endorses the Trump administration's schemes to keep the dying coal and nuclear industries on life support," Kenneth Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said in a press release sent to EcoWatch.

FERC has historically been an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil but has moved more partisan thanks to Trump. McNamee, who will fill a seat vacated by Robert Powelson, has boosted FERC's partisan split to 3-2 in favor of Republicans.

"The Senate's reckless decision to place Bernard 'Coal Bailout' McNamee on FERC is a major threat to the Commission's independence and integrity," said Mary Anne Hitt, senior director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign in a press release. "From this day forward we will do everything we can to guarantee that he follows the law, treats clean energy sources fairly, and recuses himself from all matters pertaining to his failed coal bailout scheme. It's essential that we have a fair and lawful FERC moving forward."

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had only nice words to say about McNamee.

"This is an impressive nominee who has the right qualifications for this important job," said McConnell prior to a preliminary vote Wednesday, according to Natural Gas Intel. "In his career as a well-regarded lawyer on energy issues, he's represented clients and gained expertise all across the energy sector."

Industry groups also applauded McNamee's confirmation.

"He brings a wealth of legal and energy policy experience to the Commission, along with an appreciation of the benefits of competitive markets," said Natural Gas Supply Association CEO Dena Wiggins, according to Natural Gas Intel. "It's important for FERC's work to continue and that works best with a commissioner in every seat."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter


georgeclerk / E+ / Getty Images

By Jennifer Molidor

One million species are at risk of extinction from human activity, warns a recent study by scientists with the United Nations. We need to cut greenhouse gas pollution across all sectors to avoid catastrophic climate change — and we need to do it fast, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

This research should serve as a rallying cry for polluting industries to make major changes now. Yet the agriculture industry continues to lag behind.

Read More Show Less
Edwin Remsburg / VW Pics / Getty Images

Botswana, home to one third of Africa's elephants, announced Wednesday that it was lifting its ban on the hunting of the large mammals.

"The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism wishes to inform the public that following extensive consultations with all stakeholders, the Government of Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension," the government announced in a press release shared on social media.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pxhere

By Richard Denison

Readers of this blog know how concerned EDF is over the Trump EPA's approval of many dozens of new chemicals based on its mere "expectation" that workers across supply chains will always employ personal protective equipment (PPE) just because it is recommended in the manufacturer's non-binding safety data sheet (SDS).

Read More Show Less
De Molen windmill and nuclear power plant cooling tower in Doel, Belgium. Trougnouf / CC BY-SA 4.0

By Grant Smith

From 2009 to 2012, Gregory Jaczko was chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which approves nuclear power plant designs and sets safety standards for plants. But he now says that nuclear power is too dangerous and expensive — and not part of the answer to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
A lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Brett Walton / Circle of Blue

By Brett Walton

When Greg Wetherbee sat in front of the microscope recently, he was looking for fragments of metals or coal, particles that might indicate the source of airborne nitrogen pollution in Rocky Mountain National Park. What caught his eye, though, were the plastics.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Gabriele Holtermann Gorden / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

In a big victory for animals, Prada has announced that it's ending its use of fur! It joins Coach, Jean Paul Gaultier, Giorgio Armani, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood, Michael Kors, Donna Karan and many others PETA has pushed toward a ban.

This is a victory more than a decade in the making. PETA and our international affiliates have crashed Prada's catwalks with anti-fur signs, held eye-catching demonstrations all around the world, and sent the company loads of information about the fur industry. In 2018, actor and animal rights advocate Pamela Anderson sent a letter on PETA's behalf urging Miuccia Prada to commit to leaving fur out of all future collections, and the iconic designer has finally listened.

Read More Show Less
Amer Ghazzal / Barcroft Media / Getty Images

If people in three European countries want to fight the climate crisis, they need to chill out more.

That's the conclusion of a new study from think tank Autonomy, which found that Germany, the UK and Sweden all needed to drastically reduce their workweeks to fight climate change.

"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."

The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.

The study based its conclusions on data from the UN and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in all three countries.

The report comes as the group Momentum called on the UK's Labour Party to endorse a four-day work week.

"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."

Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.

"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."

Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.

"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice held a press conference after the annual shareholder meeting on May 22. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice

Amazon shareholders voted down an employee-backed resolution calling for more aggressive action on climate change at their annual meeting Wednesday, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Read More Show Less