Trump re­quest for work­ers on cli­mate change de­nied

White House says move could be at­tempt to tar­get civil ser­vants.


In an­other sign that the tran­si­tion isn’t pro­ceed­ing as smoothly as Pres­i­dent Obama pro­fesses, the En­ergy Depart­ment re­fused Tues­day to pro­vide Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald Trump’s team with a list of fed­eral em­ploy­ees who have worked on cli­mate-change pro­grams.

White House press sec­re­tary Josh Earnest ex­pressed con­cern that the move by Mr. Trump “could have been an at­tempt to tar­get civil ser­vants, ca­reer fed­eral gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees.”

“If we had to re­place the en­tire Depart­ment of En­ergy ev­ery time a new pres­i­dent was elected, that is cer­tainly go­ing to un­der­mine the abil­ity of those at the most se­nior lev­els to im­ple­ment a co­her­ent and ef­fec­tive en­ergy pol­icy,” he said.

The pres­i­dent-elect’s tran­si­tion of­fi­cials have not ex­plained the in­quiry and did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Tues­day.

The Trump tran­si­tion team’s clash with the En­ergy Depart­ment comes as the pres­i­dent-elect is ex­pected to name for­mer Texas Gov. Rick Perry to lead the agency, which is re­spon­si­ble for a wide port­fo­lio deal­ing with the oil-and-gas sec­tor, re­new­able en­ergy such as wind and so­lar power, and nu­clear power fa­cil­i­ties.

If con­firmed, Mr. Perry — who dur­ing his 2012 pres­i­den­tial bid wanted to abol­ish the En­ergy Depart­ment but then for­got his own po­si­tion, prompt­ing his in­fa­mous “oops” mo­ment dur­ing a GOP pri­mary de­bate — is likely to run a depart­ment much more friendly to fos­sil fu­els.

Com­bined with Mr. Trump’s choice of Rep. Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers to head the In­te­rior Depart­ment and Ok­la­homa At­tor­ney Gen­eral Scott Pruitt as En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency ad­min­is­tra­tor, the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has as­sem­bled a team that will pri­or­i­tize en­ergy devel­op­ment over emis­sions re­duc­tions and cli­mate change.

The pres­i­dent-elect has vowed to pull the U.S. out of a global cli­mate-change agree­ment signed by Mr. Obama that is aimed at re­duc­ing car­bon emis­sions.

Mr. Earnest seem­ingly poked fun at the choice of Mr. Perry for En­ergy sec­re­tary, say­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­fusal to turn over a list of agency em­ploy­ees’ names in­volves de­fense of the prin­ci­ple that “ca­reer civil ser­vants are eval­u­ated based on merit and not on pol­i­tics.”

“And I’m sure that the pres­i­dent-elect used the same kind of cri­te­ria when choos­ing his new Depart­ment of En­ergy sec­re­tary as well. Don’t you think?” he asked to laugh­ter from re­porters.

The Trump team’s ques­tion­naire sent to the En­ergy Depart­ment has so alarmed Democrats that Sen. Maria Cantwell, Wash­ing­ton Demo­crat, sent a let­ter Tues­day to En­ergy Sec­re­tary Ernest Moniz ask­ing him to warn her if Mr. Trump’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives seek any more in­for­ma­tion from the Cabi­net agency. She called the ques­tion­naire “trou­bling,” and blamed Thomas Pyle, head of the tran­si­tion’s en­ergy team who has led the In­si­tute for En­ergy Re­search, which she said is funded by fos­sil-fuel in­ter­ests.

“These un­prece­dented ques­tions sug­gest the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion may be pre­par­ing to take ar­bi­trary ac­tion against civil ser­vants and gov­ern­ment con­trac­tors sim­ply be­cause they worked, at the re­quest of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, on is­sues per­tain­ing to cli­mate change, the nu­clear weapons com­plex and in­no­va­tion poli­cies, par­tic­u­larly re­lated to clean en­ergy tech­nolo­gies,” Ms. Cantwell wrote. “The po­ten­tial ram­i­fi­ca­tions are chill­ing.”

The dis­pute was an­other sign that tran­si­tion ten­sions are ris­ing, de­spite Mr. Obama’s as­sur­ances that he wants to make the trans­fer of power as smooth as pos­si­ble. The re­jec­tion of the Trump team’s re­quest at the En­ergy Depart­ment came a day af­ter the White House re­newed ac­cu­sa­tions of Mr. Trump’s ties to Rus­sia, and crit­i­cized Repub­li­can law­mak­ers for not raising con­cerns prior to the elec­tion about his al­leged co­zi­ness with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

Congress now plans to in­ves­ti­gate claims that Rus­sian hack­ers in­ter­fered in the U.S. elec­tion with the aim of help­ing Mr. Trump win, a charge that the pres­i­dent-elect re­jects ve­he­mently.

En­ergy Depart­ment spokesman Eben Burn­han-Sny­der said the ques­tion­naire from the Trump tran­si­tion team last week “left many in our work­force un­set­tled.”

“We are go­ing to re­spect the pro­fes­sional and sci­en­tific in­tegrity and in­de­pen­dence of our em­ploy­ees at our labs and across our depart­ment,” Mr. Burn­ham-Sny­der said in a state­ment. “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 sur­vey asked depart­ment of­fi­cials for a list of em­ploy­ees who have worked on Mr. Obama’s cli­mate-change pri­or­i­ties, in­clud­ing the Paris cli­mate agree­ment and the so­cial cost of car­bon emis­sions.

The head of the union for work­ers at the agency’s head­quar­ters in Wash­ing­ton also ex­pressed con­cern with the ques­tion­naire.

“My mem­bers are up­set and have ques­tions about what this means. These are all civil ser­vants who do their jobs,” said Tony Rear­don, na­tional pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Trea­sury Em­ploy­ees Union. “They have no wish to be caught up in po­lit­i­cal winds — they are non­par­ti­san em­ploy­ees — sci­en­tists, engi­neers, statis­ti­cians, econ­o­mists and fi­nan­cial ex­perts — who were hired for their knowl­edge and they bring their tal­ent and ex­pe­ri­ence to the job ev­ery day.”

Look­ing ahead to new lead­er­ship at the En­ergy Depart­ment, top Repub­li­cans praised the pend­ing Perry se­lec­tion Tues­day.

“Rick Perry is an ex­cel­lent choice to lead the Depart­ment of En­ergy,” Sen. James M. In­hofe, Ok­la­homa Repub­li­can and chair­man of the Se­nate En­vi­ron­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee, said in a state­ment. “Perry un­der­stands the abun­dance of our do­mes­tic en­ergy re­sources and what it takes to power our com­plex and grow­ing economy. I am con­fi­dent that un­der his lead­er­ship, the DOE will be right sized and fo­cused in­tently on its twin goals of na­tional se­cu­rity and en­ergy in­de­pen­dence.

Democrats blasted the move and cast Mr. Perry as un­fit to lead the depart­ment, and be­moaned the fact that the agency is likely to re­verse course away from a fo­cus on clean en­ergy and global warm­ing.

“Pres­i­dent Obama’s En­ergy Depart­ment has been in­stru­men­tal in help­ing to more than dou­ble the amount of clean en­ergy like wind and so­lar en­ergy that we pro­duce, and set his­toric en­ergy ef­fi­ciency stan­dards that will help pro­tect our planet,” the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee said in a state­ment. “To have some­one as un­qual­i­fied as Rick Perry [serve as En­ergy sec­re­tary] is sim­ply in­com­pre­hen­si­ble.”

While Mr. Perry clearly is an ally of the oil-and-gas in­dus­try, his record as Texas gov­er­nor shows that he’s also more than will­ing to pro­mote re­new­able power.

Dur­ing his ten­ure, Texas be­came the largest wind power state in the coun­try, with at least 18,000 megawatts of wind power in­stalled, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from the Amer­i­can Wind En­ergy As­so­ci­a­tion.

Texas also saw a ma­jor uptick in so­lar power dur­ing Mr. Perry’s time as gov­er­nor.

Adding to the tran­si­tion ten­sions, Mr. Trump is ex­pected to name for­mer Texas Gov. Rick Perry to be his new En­ergy sec­re­tary. Many in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and its al­lies view Mr. Perry as a foe of Mr. Obama’s clean-en­ergy and cli­mate-change ini­tia­tives.

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