Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who once quipped that he would dismantle the Department of Energy (DOE) if elected president, has reportedly been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the department.
Meanwhile, a DOE spokesman said the department will not comply with a request by Trump's transition team to identify employees and contractors that have worked on climate change policies for the Obama administration, among other things.
In his unsuccessful bid for president in the 2012 race, Perry called for the dismantling of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the suspension and reconsideration of several rules administered by the agency. He also called for the creation of a separate court to address challenges to energy projects and greater access to onshore and offshore oil and natural gas resources.
During a presidential debate in November 2011, Perry said that if he were elected president, he would abolish three government agencies, but at that moment he was only able to identify two of them: the Department of Commerce and the Department of Education. Later in the debate, he said the third agency was the DOE. The matter was considered a gaffe, and Perry dropped out of the race the following January.
A second bid for the White House was launched by Perry in 2015, but he dropped out after three months. Perry threw his support behind Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in January, and endorsed Trump in May after Cruz dropped out.
Perry was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1984, as a Democrat. He served three two-year terms in the chamber before switching to the Republican Party in 1989. Perry was then twice elected as the state's agriculture commissioner, serving two four-year terms before winning the race for lieutenant governor in 1998. He assumed the governorship in 2000 after George W. Bush won his election for president.
Perry won the race for governor in his own right in 2002, and was re-elected in 2006 and 2010. He became the first governor in Texas history to win three four-year terms.
The nomination of Perry to head DOE follows Trump’s selection of ExxonMobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson to serve as his secretary of state. Last week, the president-elect chose Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) to serve as secretary of the Department of Interior, and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead EPA.
Joseph Hall, a partner with the law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP and co-chair of the firm's energy industry group, said he believes Perry will be "well received" by the energy sector.
"He'll need to express his goals for the National Nuclear Security Administration (a semi-autonomous agency within the DOE), but Texas is a market leader on the policy, law and economics of the oil, gas and electric power industries," Hall said Tuesday. "He understands carbon policy, the oil and gas business and generation and transmission development. In fact, Texas has invested significantly in renewable power and transmission infrastructure.
"If confirmed, in the short term, I would look for additional thought leadership from DOE on carbon capture and sequestration development and technologies as a mechanism to facilitate the use of domestic fossil fuels."
Environmental groups voiced strong opposition. Earthjustice spokeswoman Abigail Dillen said the selection of Perry, when coupled with the Tillerson and Pruitt picks, amounted to a "trifecta" for the oil and gas industry.
"The nomination of Texas Gov. Rick Perry -- yet another out-of-touch climate denier -- to head the DOE, an agency he vowed to eliminate, completes the dangerous trio of climate denial and obstruction," Dillen said. "This may be the most stunning expression of how money in politics work. The richest corporations win and everybody else loses."
DOE Rejects Trump Questions
Last week, the Trump transition team reportedly sent a questionnaire to DOE officials that included 74 questions and a request for a list of individuals who participated in international climate change talks over the past five years. DOE staffers were reportedly troubled by the questionnaire and raised concerns that the incoming Trump administration was targeting people who worked on climate change issues under the Obama administration.
In an email to the media on Tuesday, DOE spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder said the department had received "significant feedback" from its workforce over the questionnaire.
"Some of the questions asked left many in our workforce unsettled," Burnham-Snyder said. "Our career workforce, including our contractors and employees at our labs, comprise the backbone of DOE and the important work our department does to benefit the American people. We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department.
"We will be forthcoming with all publicly-available information with the transition team. We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team." The last sentence was reportedly written in boldface for added emphasis.