Senator Susan Collins has shown once again that when it comes to issues of consequence, she’s inclined to say one thing but vote the opposite way.
On Thursday, Sen. Collins cast a deciding vote to confirm President Donald Trump’s pick for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Bernard McNamee, a Republican who has vociferously downplayed the role of fossil fuels and human activity in worsening climate change.
McNamee’s climate change denial is well documented.
Prior to his confirmation, a video of him speaking at a February event at the conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation resurfaced online, which revealed his clear bias against renewable energy.
“Fossil fuels are not something dirty, something that we have to move and get away from, but understand that they are the key not only to our prosperity, but to the quality of life, but also to a clean environment,” said McNamee at the Koch Industries-sponsored event. “There’s an organized propaganda campaign against fossil fuels. We all know it. We all see it. The problem is, it’s taken hold. You talk to millennials, you talk to housewives, you talk to people in corporate boardrooms now, they are all buying into this.”
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), a member of the Senate Committee on Environment, called McNamee’s appointment “conceivably the worst” out of Trump’s appointments, saying on the Senate floor that his record of service to the fossil fuel industry should be disqualifying in itself.
“He has deep ties to polluters and Koch-funded organizations working to undermine clean and renewable energy,” said Sen. Whitehouse. “McNamee is a walking failure of any honest look at any question in which the fossil fuel and coal industry has an interest.”
The U.S. Senate voted to confirm McNamee 50-49 along partisan lines.
Constituents of Sen. Collins expressed frustration over her vote, not because she votes Republican, but rather because she expresses support for urgent action around climate change, but doesn’t vote for people who further those interests.
“Some people erroneously think of Susan Collins as an elected official who recognizes human-caused climate change and takes actions to respond to it,” tweeted environmentalist and former member of the Maine House Jon Hinck on Tuesday.
"We continue to be dismayed and outraged by the damage being done by the Trump administration," said Michelle Fournier, a member of environmental advocacy group 350 Maine. "We need to stop the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and keep coal, oil and gas in the ground. Bernard McNamee will take us in the opposite direction."
Collins has voted for climate change deniers before. In April she voted to confirm Rep. Jim Bridenstine as a NASA administrator, a man who once falsely claimed that global temperatures “stopped rising 10 years ago.”
Yet on November 26, Collins responded to a dire national report on climate change by saying, “We can’t ignore the impact of climate change on our public health, environment, and economy. This should cause all of us, including the Administration, to take a harder look at the consequences of inaction and use what is known about risks to inform policy.”
According to the League of Conservation voters annual National Environmental Scorecard — which analyzes how members of Congress vote in respect to the environment — Sen. Collins voted 12 times in 2017 on bills or appointments that threaten the environment. Her overall score that year was 32 percent, down significantly from her lifetime score of 63 percent.
Beth Ahearn, the political director of the Maine chapter of the LoC, said she hadn't heard that Sen. Collins voted to confirm a climate change denier, but hopes that she “votes out of that space.”
“Sen. Collins has demonstrated strong leadership on climate change. She voted against Scott Pruitt,” said Ahearn. “But I would be disappointed in any vote for a climate change denier, particularly in such a position of power.”
Sen. Collins’s press team did not respond to requests for comment.