U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission headquarters

This photo shows the headquarters of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Ryan McKnight/flickr/cc)

Dems Urged to Oppose Ex-Manchin Staffer for Top Environmental Post

"David Rosner was a paid cheerleader for the LNG boom before it was fashionable," said Friends of the Earth campaigner Lukas Ross.

The environmental group Friends of the Earth on Wednesday called on U.S. senators to oppose one of President Joe Biden's regulatory nominees, citing his "disturbing pattern of dirty energy advocacy."

Last month, Biden nominated West Virginia Solicitor-General Lindsay See, energy economics and policy expert Judy Chang, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission analyst David Rosner to serve on FERC's five-member executive body. Chang and Rosner are Democrats. See is a Republican, as there can be no more than three commissioners from the same party.

Friends of the Earth (FOE)—which will publish an online ad urging senators to reject Rosner—noted that the nominee is a former staffer for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), one of the most fossil fuel-friendly members of Congress, and that he previously worked at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), "where he sided with industry over consumers and the climate on multiple energy issues. BPC funders include BP, Chevron, Conoco, and Shell."

"David Rosner was a paid cheerleader for the LNG boom before it was fashionable," said Lukas Ross, FOE's deputy climate and energy director, referring to the nominee's support for liquefied natural gas exports. "We're calling on Democrats not named Manchin to reject this nomination."

Noting the senator's decision to not seek reelection this year, Ross added that "letting Joe Manchin control FERC from beyond his political grave should be a nonstarter for every other Democrat in the caucus."

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is set to hold a heading for the FERC nominees on Thursday morning. Manchin, who chairs the committee, backs Rosner. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the ranking member on the committee, has voiced support for See, while praising Rosner, who "has worked constructively with my staff."

If See and Rosner are confirmed as commissioners, FERC would have a pro-fossil fuel majority. Democratic Chair Willie Phillips has led a wave of fossil fuel project approvals, while Republican Commissioner Mark Christie is a reliable booster for oil, gas, and coal.

Progressive lawmakers and environmental campaigners have been increasingly critical of FERC, with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) calling it a "completely captured agency."

"The commission is captured by the fossil fuel industry. There is no other explanation for how FERC could approve over 99% of the fossil fuel projects it reviews in the face of climate catastrophe," Merkley said after the body greenlighted TC Energy's proposed expansion of methane gas infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest. "FERC needs fundamental reform."

Roishetta Ozane, founder of Louisiana environmental justice group Vessel Project, wrote in an opinion piece published Wednesday by Common Dreams that "as we transition to a future without fossil fuels, it's clear that major change is needed at FERC."

"While the new commissioners at FERC go through the confirmation process, they must show they are dedicated to more than just the basic criteria of the job," Ozane added. "We hope to see the commissioners eager to pave a new path forward by prioritizing justice: environmental justice and climate justice."

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