President-elect Donald Trump is expected to nominate Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), a five-term Republican and the highest-ranking woman in the GOP leadership, as secretary of the Department of Interior (DOI), according to reports.
Meanwhile, advisers within the Trump transition team have also reportedly issued a questionnaire to officials at the Department of Energy (DOE), asking them to identify any employees and contractors that have worked on climate change policies for the Obama administration, among other things.
"We applaud President-elect Trump's nomination of a strong western woman who understands natural resources and is a proven leader on public lands issues," Western Energy Alliance (WEA) President Kathleen Sgamma told NGIon Friday. "Only westerners of McMorris Rodger's caliber intrinsically understand federal lands issues and how best to balance conservation with productive uses of our vast working landscapes.
"The pick of Interior Secretary is very important to WEA members because red tape from the Department has driven them away from public lands states to areas of the country with more regulatory certainty. We look forward to working with her and getting past the false narrative that energy development is incompatible with protecting the land. That false agenda has been stifling job creation in the West for the past eight years."
If confirmed by the Senate, McMorris Rodgers would be the second climate change skeptic to hold a key post in the Trump administration. The president-elect nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday.
Environmental groups, still reeling from Pruitt's nomination to head the EPA, had some vitriol left over for McMorris Rodgers as well.
Greenpeace spokesman Travis Nichols said McMorris Rodgers "built a career actively obstructing clean energy and clean air regulations...[and] supports the long-term effort to turn over America's public lands to private interests. Putting Cathy McMorris Rodgers in charge of the DOI will put the country even further behind the global clean energy revolution and put our public lands at risk."
Drew Caputo, vice president of litigation for lands, ocean and wildlife at Earthjustice, added that "[Her] environmental record is frankly terrible." First elected to Congress in 2004, McMorris Rodgers represents eastern Washington State. She was elected chairman of the House Republican Conference for the 113th Congress, making her the fourth highest-ranking Republican in the House after Speaker Tim Ryan (R-WI), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA).
McMorris Rodgers has served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee since 2010. She also delivered the official Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address in 2014.
Trump questionnaire a 'political witch hunt'
According to reports, the questionnaire sent to DOE officials contains 74 questions and includes a request for a list of individuals that took part in international climate change talks over the past five years, including the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. COP meetings were held in Paris in 2015 and Marrakech, Morocco, this year.
At issue are meetings where DOE employees and contractors discussed the "social cost of carbon," a metric used to calculate the cost to society from one ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) being emitted into the atmosphere.
The questionnaire also reportedly included 15 questions about the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the agency within DOE that collects and analyzes data on energy and releases content in the form of short- and long-term energy outlook reports. EIA reporting is usually considered independent and impartial. It could, however, be a cost-cutting target.
DOE staffers were reportedly troubled by the questionnaire and raised concern that the incoming Trump administration was looking to target people who worked on climate change issues under the Obama administration.
"It looks like Trump and his administration are planning a political witch hunt which has no place in American government: purging or marginalizing anyone who has worked on the issue of climate change," said Sierra Club Global Climate Policy Director John Coequyt. "And that's at the same time they are looking for ways to eliminate the very scientific infrastructure we need to monitor changes to our planet and its climate."