Groups Demand McNamee Recuse Himself from Official Business Relating to Coal & Nuclear Bailout

Washington, D.C. – Clean energy advocates today called upon new Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) member Bernard McNamee to recuse himself from cases relating to federal efforts to bail out the coal and nuclear industries. The filing with FERC is a necessary legal requirement before the groups could file a court challenge if McNamee fails to recuse himself.  

In the filing, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Earthjustice, Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) emphasized that Commissioner McNamee’s role as counsel for the Department of Energy in issuing the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) for Grid Resiliency Pricing is disqualifying. The law aims to prevent even the appearance of bias, and McNamee’s recusal would protect the Commission from the specter of unfairness and impartiality.

The U.S. Senate confirmed McNamee to a vacant seat on the independent panel by a vote of 50-49 earlier in December. A copy of the motion is available here.

The following is a statement from Gillian Giannetti, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate and Clean Energy Program:

“Commissioner McNamee signed the Department of Energy request for the bailout of uneconomic coal and nuclear plants that FERC rejected earlier this year. That’s a good reason to be concerned that he may not be able to fairly assess the contributions of those plants, or lack thereof, in ensuring the resiliency of America’s electric grid. For the good of the country, consumers, and the future of the electric system, he should recuse himself so there is never any question about impartiality in this important FERC proceeding.”   

The following is a statement from Kim Smaczniak, clean energy staff attorney at Earthjustice:

“Recusal here is a no brainer. FERC has blocked staff who have no role in deciding cases from engaging on matters they worked on for prior employers. Commissioners must at least be held to those same basic standards.”

The following is a statement from Casey Roberts, Sierra Club senior attorney:

“Consumers deserve fair hearings on these issues that directly affect their energy choices and the prices they pay on utility bills, but Commissioner McNamee’s prior work raises real concerns that he has already made up his mind that coal plants need to be bailed out to ensure reliability. FERC Commissioners making these decisions must be open to considering all the evidence, but Bernard McNamee’s work as the architect of the coal bailout plan while at the Department of Energy shows that his impartiality is very much in question. It is clear that consumers will not get a fair hearing unless McNamee recuses himself from these dockets.”

NRDC’s Giannetti has posted a blog here:


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC. 


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