WASHINGTON (November 13, 2018)—The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) filed suit today against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for failure to produce appropriate public documents related to the Trump administration’s numerous failed proposals to bail out coal and nuclear power plants.
UCS submitted several Freedom of Information Act requests to the federal agency and the independent commission, seeking to determine whether outside private interests have been influencing government regulators’ decisions.
“There’s a glaring lack of transparency in the current administration around their repeated, failed attempts to bail out coal plants owned by the president’s political supporters,” said Rob Cowin, UCS director of energy and climate government affairs. “Key appointees in the administration have clear ties to fossil fuel interests including the administration’s recent FERC nominee, Bernard McNamee. We need to fully understand the extent of his potential conflict of interest, given that he’s been deeply involved in administration policy likely to be taken up by the Commission.
American Oversight, a non-partisan watchdog firm that tracks federal wrongdoing and ethics violations, is representing UCS in the case.
“DOE has welcomed industry insiders and energy lobbyists with open arms since Rick Perry's first day on the job,” said Austin Evers, American Oversight executive director. “Under this administration, the regulated have become the regulators—and in DOE's case, that's likely to have serious consequences for the health and safety of the American public. It's long past time to shed light on who's getting a say in DOE policy and enforcement decisions.”
The stakes for transparency are high, as Cowin points out. “Federal energy regulators will be making decisions that could lock in carbon emissions for decades or it could help accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy,” said Cowin. “An independent FERC is critical to the interests of ratepayers and clean energy advocates everywhere. If the Trump administration successfully oversteps its bounds to in ways that limits FERC’s independence and results in a coal bailout, the ramifications are serious and the public needs to know.”