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New FERC nominee to go before US Senate

The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee scheduled an Oct. 16 hearing to consider several nominations, including one for Bernard McNamee, the Trump administration's new pick to join the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The White House announced Oct. 3 that President Donald Trump intended to appoint McNamee to fill the vacant FERC seat, and McNamee's nomination was sent to the Senate two days later. The administration may be trying to move quickly to install a third Republican commissioner at FERC to avoid a 2-2 partisan split in key proceedings, including authorizing natural gas pipelines, and in case the GOP loses its majority in the Senate after November's midterm elections.

McNamee would replace former GOP Commissioner Robert Powelson, who left FERC in August to become head of a private water industry trade group.

McNamee is the executive director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Policy and served as the agency's general counsel when Energy Secretary Rick Perry released a controversial proposal aimed at propping up financially vulnerable coal-fired and nuclear power plants. FERC unanimously rejected the DOE's proposal, but the plan and McNamee's role in forming it likely will come up at his confirmation hearing.

In addition to McNamee, the Senate energy committee will consider the nominations of Rita Baranwal to be the DOE's assistant secretary of energy for nuclear energy and Raymond Vela to be director of the National Park Service.