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Senate Committee Advances Trump’s Pick For Energy Regulatory Seat

Democrats had criticized Bernard McNamee for his past comments promoting fossil fuels over renewables.

A now-shuttered power plant outside of Rockport, Texas.

A top Energy Department official with Texas ties is a step closer to getting a powerful regulatory seat.

A Senate committee on Tuesday advanced President Trump’s nomination of Bernard McNamee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, after Democrats tried and failed to delay a vote.

The FERC oversees the nation’s electric grid and things like pipelines and gas export terminals, the latter of which are being built or planned up and down the Texas Gulf Coast. Democrats weren’t happy with McNamee’s past statements criticizing renewable energy.

The five-member commission is supposed to be independent, but when McNamee worked for the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, he promoted fossil fuels over renewables.

“There’s an organized propaganda campaign against fossil fuels,” McNamee said in a speech back in February. “We all know it, we all see it, the problem is it’s taken hold.”

Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee raised objections after a video of that speech surfaced last week. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, the committee’s chair, called the comments “unfortunate,” but said she’ll trust McNamee’s pledge to maintain the FERC’s independence and autonomy. 

“I will expect that he be fuel neutral, and not a champion for one resource over another,” Murkowski added.

McNamee is likely to be approved by the full Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.

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Travis Bubenik

Energy/Environment Reporter & Afternoon News Anchor

Travis Bubenik reports on the tangled intersections of energy and the environment in Houston and across Texas. A Houston native and proud Longhorn, he returned to the Bayou City after serving as the Morning Edition Host & Reporter for Marfa Public Radio in Far West Texas. Bubenik was previously the...

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