Press Release: Thursday, December 6, 2018

Attorneys General Call on U.S. Senate to Oppose Confirmation of New FERC Commissioner

Attorneys General Call on U.S. Senate to Oppose Confirmation of New FERC Commissioner

Bernard McNamee was the Chief Proponent of the Failed “Coal Subsidies” Rule; Publicly Called Choice Between Fossil Fuels and Renewables the “Battle Between Liberty and Tyranny”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today joined a group of state attorneys general in urging U.S. Senators to oppose the confirmation of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Policy Director Bernard McNamee as the newest Commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), raising concerns that McNamee’s confirmation would jeopardize efforts to increase clean energy in the competitive energy markets.

“Bernard McNamee’s plans to subsidize uneconomic coal plants and his open hostility toward clean energy production make him the wrong choice for the job,” AG Healey said. “We urge the Senate to use its authority to demand a nominee who will fairly and impartially address important matters before the Commission.”

In the letter, the states argue that McNamee’s “record promoting the retention of uneconomic highly-polluting electric generation facilities” will harm the states’ abilities to implement clean energy policies and their “regions’ abilities to operate competitive electricity markets, all at the detriment of customers.”

In October 2017, AG Healey led a coalition of states in submitting comments to FERC arguing that a proposal for customers to subsidize aging power plants – rolled out by McNamee – would jeopardize the nation’s market-based, competitive markets for wholesale electric power and would add billions to customers’ bills. The proposal would have exempted coal and nuclear power plants from having to compete in the market with other sources of power, like natural gas, wind, and hydropower. Instead of customers paying a competitively determined price for electricity, the proposed rule would have required customers to pay coal and nuclear power plants for all of their expenses plus a profit, outside of the competitive market. In January 2018, FERC unanimously ruled that the retirement of these plants was not an emergency and rejected the proposal.        

According to today’s letter, McNamee’s public statements, including his support of fossil fuels over renewable energy, reflect a bias that would prevent him from fairly serving out his duties as a FERC Commissioner. Specifically, the letter points to comments made at a 2018 conference in Austin where McNamee referred to the choice between fossil fuels and renewables as a “constant battle between liberty and tyranny.” At the same conference, McNamee said he had the “pleasure . . . to really see that the Clean Power Plan be put to death.”

The states also express concerns that McNamee’s confirmation would mark the first time in nearly three decades that none of the sitting Commissioners have had experience as a state regulator. The letter argues that it is critical to have at least one sitting Commissioner with state regulatory experience to ensure FERC proceedings consider the state perspective.

Joining AG Healey in signing on to today’s letter are the attorneys general of Oregon, Illinois, Maryland, and New York.