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Senate Must Reject Fossil Fool FERC Nominee

Photo of a banner with a sign that reads "Stop Trump's Dirty Energy Agenda"

With stark clarity and detail, agencies from the Trump administration have documented the economic, environmental, health and safety impacts of increasing climate change in a new report released the day after Thanksgiving. It is now overwhelmingly clear that quick action by the US government is imperative if we are to protect communities from increased wildfires, floods, drought, erosion, lost coral reefs, diminished food production, and devastating economic impacts.

A quick first step Congress can take is to reject Bernard McNamee to fill a vacant Commissioner seat at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Over 90,000 individuals and 135 organizations have written to US Senators to urge them to vote ‘NO’ on McNamee.

Nominated by President Trump, Bernard McNamee is a self-proclaimed advocate for fossil fuels. In a recently discovered video he irrationally suggests that without continued dependence on fossil fuels like coal and fracked shale gas, U.S. communities won’t have basics of life like clean water and wastewater treatment. In celebration of Earth Day, McNamee sang the praises of oil, coal and fracked shale gas and has used his authority as a high level Department of Energy official to advance fossil fuel interests, including advancing a proposed financial bailout of coal plants.

At the same time, McNamee denigrates clean energy, ignoring that it is our fastest growing energy source, and is quickly outpacing fossil fuels in job creation and successful investment. McNamee ignores that by 2050 clean energy options can well serve U.S. energy needs, while protecting our environment, public health, job creation and the economy. McNamee doesn’t just reject the power and importance of wind, solar, geothermal, efficiency and other clean energy options, in the recently discovered video he proclaims environmental protection rules and regulations to be a “tyranny” that is crushing the American spirit.

If installed as a Commissioner at FERC, McNamee will have a new platform from which to advance fossil fuels, deny climate change, and undermine advancement of clean energy and environmental protection.

FERC is the agency with primary authority for advancing pipelines that serve and advance the fracked gas industry. Fracked gas drilling and pipelines are amongst the worst perpetrators of climate change, spewing methane at such high rates that they will soon lock us into the most devastating impacts of climate change. In fact, about ¼ of today’s human induced global warming effects are because of methane emissions. According to NASA, and many other well respected scientists, the tremendous rise in methane emissions over the past 10 years is because of the oil and gas industry, of which fracking and pipelines are a significant and growing part.

Since Donald Trump was elected President, many of the FERC pipeline approvals have been entirely on partisan lines — with concerned democratic Commissioners asking for, amongst other things, consideration of climate change impacts, and Trump’s republican Commissioners saying “NO”. In addition, along partisan lines, FERC has illegally exempted itself from having to consider the climate change impacts of its pipelines,in violation of both federal lawand federal court directive. Adding another advocate for the fossil fuel industry will further strengthen the power the fossil fuel industry already has in our government, particularly at FERC.

The failure to consider climate change is a legal and a moral failing of FERC. Communities are already being devastated by growing storms and damage as a direct result of climate change. For example, Hurricane Florence was made worse by climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made clear, we only have until 2030 to shift our energy strategyif we are to avoid emitting so much climate changing pollution that we lock in the devastating harms climate change will bring.

It’s not just the harms of climate change that are at issue. Pipelines are explosive and dangerous. In just the past 10 years, 1,130 natural gas pipeline incidents, including explosions, have inflicted death, injury and over $1.3 billion in damages. And yet, with FERC’s help, pipeline companies are forcing communities to become host to fracked gas pipelines. Every FERC approval has given a pipeline company the power of eminent domain which it has used to force construction of its potentially explosive project through private properties and public parks. Forced housing of a pipeline is a dangerous proposition that not only endangers lives but reduces property values– by as much as 30% by some accounts — preventing people from being able to sell their homes and move away.

To add insult to injury, through the use of a loophole FERC prevents people from being able to access the courts to challenge this forced occupation until after it has already taken place and it is too late.

FERC also undermines the rights of states. Rather than await state decision making on a pipeline, FERC approves eminent domain and construction activities without all state approvals. As a result, FERC undermines the rights of states to prevent pipeline construction activities that inflict illegal pollution and harm.

Communities and environments acrossAmericaarebeingharmedby FERC’s pipeline decisions. Instead of approving McNamee to FERC, the US Congress should launch an investigation into FERC’s well documented and unapologetic bias towards the fossil fuel industry. Congressional hearings, being called for by communities across the nation,will not only expose FERC’s abuses, but will help identify smart and meaningful reforms that can accomplish the nation’s energy goals without sacrificing people, communities, the law, and the environment.

FERC is already notorious for using its authority to approve pipelines regardless of their impacts on climate change, the environment, property rights or state’s rights. Installing another fossil fuel advocate to FERC is dangerous for our nation. McNamee is an out of touch extremist who cannot think objectively or independently when it comes to issues of energy. It would be irresponsible for Congress to fill the vacant FERC Commissioner seat with Bernard McNamee.

One more time I ask, please, add your voice to the national outcry opposing McNameesign the national petition already supported by over 25,000 to urge the US senate to vote ‘NO’ on McNamee and ‘YES’ to Congressional hearings into FERC’s blatant bias towards fracking pipelines and the industry.