This morning, members of Beyond Extreme Energy and friends were at FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) to “welcome” new commissioner Bernard McNamee to his first meeting. After a campaign against his Senate confirmation because of his close ties to – and adulation of – the fossil fuel industry, and his denigration of both clean energy and those advocating for it, he squeaked by in a 50-49 Senate vote along party lines – by far the most controversial nominee ever seated.
“Recuse yourself” is the call from legal experts, many members of Congress, climate activists and members of frontline communities fighting the projects FERC routinely approves.
D.C. resident Carole Lewis Anderson said she went to her first FERC meeting because, “I’ve been persuaded that FERC is one agency that does not seem to make the goals and desires of the people part of its agenda. They just don’t care and have a way of dealing with input that’s discouraging. Also, most of its work has to do with supporting the fossil fuel industries and I am adamantly opposed to further extraction of any fossil fuels anywhere on earth. I didn’t want to be disruptive, so I told them before the meeting officially started that they need to allow the public’s views to be heard, how wrong it is to have McNamee on the commission, and that he must recuse himself.”
Michael Bagdes-Canning interrupted the meeting to say, “I am from the shalefields of western Pennsylvania, and every time they act they destroy communities like mine. They need to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”
John Quarterman is the Sewannee Riverkeeper, fighting to protect a river that runs through Alabama, Georgia and Florida, which is also home to the fracked gas pipeline, the Sabal Trail, approved by FERC. He told the commissioners, “The Sabal Trail already leaked and they didn’t even detect it, much less stop it, for a day. FERC abdicated responsibility.”
The Electricity Law Institute at Harvard Law School has filed a legal challenge urging frequent recusals because of McNamee’s conflicts of interest. And last week 17 Democratic Senators sent him a letter saying, “We are concerned about positions you have taken, both while serving as the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Deputy General Counsel for Energy Policy and in the private sector. These positions and statements suggest a lack of independence and an inappropriate predisposition on a number of topics likely to be involved in proceedings that will come before you in your new role as a FERC Commissioner. We urge you to recuse yourself from any future FERC proceedings where your impartiality could be questioned. . .”
Maybe he’s listening. BXE veteran Ellen Barfield noted, “McNamee said at least for today and a little while in the future he’s going to just listen and vote present.” Activists are also urging anyone who doesn’t think such an extreme partisan in favor of expanded burning of planet- and community-destroying fossil fuels should be sitting as a FERC commissioner to call his office to express their opinion