January 18, 2017

Science Group Offers Reaction to Perry’s Nomination Hearing for Energy Secretary Position

Statement by Rob Cowin, Director of Government Affairs in the Climate and Energy Program

WASHINGTON (January 18, 2017)—The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing tomorrow to consider President-elect Donald Trump’s selection for Energy Department (DOE) secretary Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas.

Perry is one of a number of nominees who have been hostile to the agency they would lead. In addition, Perry has openly expressed doubts about the scientific consensus on climate change. DOE has enormous science and national security responsibilities.

Below is a statement by Rob Cowin, director of government affairs for the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“We hope Perry was merely placating fringe audiences when he resolved to abolish the Department of Energy while running for president in 2011. As secretary, Perry will quickly find that the work of the agency is indispensible to American businesses and national security interests across a variety of sectors.

“Governor Perry will also have to dedicate himself to upholding and fully implementing the department’s high standards of scientific integrity, regardless of political convenience. The questionnaire sent to DOE from the transition team certainly calls this into question.

“Many committee members also represent states with national labs that employee a large number of their state’s residents. That means senators from Tennessee, Idaho, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington will continue to push Perry on the importance of funding these businesses committed to critical research, technological development and scientific innovation.

“In the end, Perry will have to reconcile his political ideology with the fact that energy choices are inextricably linked to the warming of the planet, a problem that demands investments in clean energy. If he can manage the agency pragmatically and increase his substantive understanding of the agency’s work Perry has a chance to feed off the momentum we’re seeing in the private sector around clean energy and keep us on a path to a thriving clean energy economy.”

Committee members are likely to focus their questions on issues of importance to their states. For example, Perry will likely be pressed on nuclear waste management, specifically the Hanford site, by Senator Cantwell (D-WA) whose state has a long and frustrating history working with DOE to clean up the legacy of radioactive waste from the cold war weapons complex. Similarly Senator Heinrich (D-NM) is likely to push on interim storage of nuclear waste, given that the area near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico would be a prime candidate for an interim storage site. 

UCS has also authored blogs on this topic. Links for them are provided below.

Will a Rick Perry DOE Help Limit a Risky Overreliance on Natural Gas? by Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager at UCS

Can Trump Revive the Coal Industry? Lessons from the Petra Nova and Kemper Projects by Steve Clemmer, director of energy research at UCS

What Will US Energy Leadership Look Like at Rick Perry’s Department of Energy? by Rob Cowin, director of government affairs for the Climate and Energy Program at UCS

Rick Perry and the “Texas Approach” to Renewable Energy and Infrastructure by Mike Jacobs, senior energy analyst at UCS

Science Group Offers Mixed Reaction to Perry Energy Secretary Nomination, statement by UCS President Ken Kimmell 

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.