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November 15, 2018

In Senate Hearing, King Presses Energy Nominee to Recuse Himself from Evaluating Costly Energy Policy He Helped Design

WASHINGTON, DC – In a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) cited the United States Code in asking Bernard McNamee, a nominee to serve as a Member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), to recuse himself from any proceedings related to a proposed rule that Mr. McNamee worked on while serving at the Department of Energy. The proposed rule, which called for additional compensation for electric generators that hold 90 days of fuel supply on site, effectively encourages use of coal and nuclear power. The proposal was unanimously rejected by FERC in January 2018, but similar proposals may be forthcoming from the Administration.  

“The United States Code says, ‘any judge, justice, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.’ It goes on to say, ‘where he has served in government employment, and in such capacity participated as counsel, adviser, or material witness, considering the proceeding, or express an opinion concerning the merits of a particular case in controversy, he should disqualify himself,’” said Senator King.  “I don't understand any argument where you would have to consult any counsel, anywhere on Earth to understand, that you have a conflict of interest when it comes to this issue of the price of the so-called grid resiliency pricing rule or any version thereof. Will you recuse yourself if that issue comes before the commission and you are a member?” 

After McNamee refused to commit to recusing himself, Senator King added, “I'm surprised and disappointed that you feel you have to consult with counsel on something that's so clear.” 

Today’s hearing also included the nominations of Dr. Rita Baranwal to be Assistant Secretary of Energy and Mr. Raymond David Vela to be Director of the National Park Service. Later in his questioning, Senator King,  the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Parks, asked Mr. Vela if he supported the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan bill led by Senators King, Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). Mr. Vela reiterated his support of the proposal, which was successfully voted out of the Committee and is cosponsored by 30 Senators.

Senator King has been a longtime supporter of the National Parks System, and in September he joined Acting Director of the National Park Service, Dan Smith, on a tour of Acadia National Park to assess the park’s critical maintenance needs. He has also pushed for modernizations to make the parks more accessible to future generations, including the implementation of a pilot program to make entrance passes for parks available online, that was lauded in a Subcommittee hearing last year. The program has been particularly successful in Acadia National Park (ANP); Acadia accounts for 72% of total sales in the pilot program, and online purchases accounted for 10% of the park’s total entrance fee receipts in 2016. 

See Senator King's questioning HERE.

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