Trump picks Rick Perry to lead Energy Department
President-elect Donald Trump is planning to nominate former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) to lead the Department of Energy, a transition official tells The Hill.
If the Senate confirms Perry as secretary of Energy, he would oversee a department whose main missions include research on emerging energy technologies, regulating energy efficiency, managing the nation’s nuclear weapons and building nuclear reactors for Navy vessels.
The Energy Department in the coming years faces numerous challenges regarding the future of nuclear energy, including whether to continue working toward a nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain that nuclear power producers say they need in order to keep operating.
Perry would replace Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist who has been Energy secretary under Obama since 2013. Moniz’s predecessor under Obama, Stephen Chu, was also a scientist, so Perry would break the tradition Obama set to put scientists in charge at DOE.
The former governor famously forgot the name of the Energy Department in a 2011 Republican presidential primary debate.
Perry tried to list the three federal departments he wanted to eliminate. He listed the departments of Education and Commerce, but then stumbled, saying, “The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”
After stepping down as Texas’s longest-serving governor in 2015, Perry ran again unsuccessfully for president. He was later a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars” in September, where he was eliminated in the second episode.
The Perry pick was first reported by CBS and Fox.
On the campaign trail, Trump said little about his plans for the Energy Department’s responsibilities.
More generally, he has promised to unleash fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal, which could lead to a shift at the department away from alternative energy programs.
Trump has also railed against “job-killing” regulations and pledged to review existing rules and crack down on new ones, which might change how the department writes efficiency rules for appliances and other products.
Perry could play a role in Trump’s proposal to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure. While it doesn’t have a formal regulatory responsibility, the Energy Department does research and analysis into the nation’s needs regarding energy infrastructure, like transmission lines and pipelines.
An April report from the department recommended billions of dollars in upgrades to the country’s energy infrastructure system, both to repair broken systems and adapt to new demands.
A questionnaire leaked last week from Trump’s transition team for the Department of Energy provided some more insight into his plans.
The survey sought a list of employees who worked on various climate change programs from President Obama and scrutinized various cost considerations of national labs and the Energy Information Administration, among other programs. It also asked how the agency could make nuclear power more competitive in the electricity marketplace.
Perry sits on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, which is building the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmentalists oppose.
The Army Corps of Engineers is considering whether to grant the final easement that the project needs to build under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. The Energy Department has no direct role in the approval process.
Perry said in 2011 that climate change is a hoax by “a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.”
But he’s also said that economic progress and protecting the environment are not mutually exclusive.
“You can have job creation, and you can make your environment better,” he said last year.
Before becoming Texas’s governor, Perry was a state lawmaker, agriculture commissioner and lieutenant governor.