Trump transition team efforts to obtain the names of government employees who have worked on climate change has been rejected by current Energy Department leadership.
Since the election, Trump has come under fire from both sides of the political aisle for actions taken by the now President-Elect and his transition team. Much of this criticism has come from the government itself, which is not surprising considering that the neo-liberal Obama administration has made their position on Trump very clear. One of Trump’s most recent controversial decisions was the distribution of a questionnaire to officials at the US Department of Energy, which asked officials to name employees and contractors that were part of UN climate talks within the last five years.
The questionnaire asked a total of 74 questions including which staffers that worked on calculating the “social cost” of carbon as well as who has been involved in implementing President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. Democratic lawmakers were livid over the distribution of the document with Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) calling it a “witch hunt” and “environmental McCarthyism.” House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said in a statement that “This raises serious concerns as to the motivation of such a request and raises questions of possible retribution for following President Obama’s policies.” Trump’s transition team did not respond to Reuter’s request for comment on the questionnaire or its contents.
Soon after the existence of the questionnaire was made public, the US Energy Department said that it has no plans to comply with the requests made by Trump’s transition team. Energy Department spokesman Eben Burham-Snyder said on Tuesday that “We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department. […] We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team.” He added that the questionnaire had “left many in our workforce unsettled.”
The rejection of the transition’s team request by the Energy Department suggests that the President-Elect’s transition could be rockier than anticipated. However, it illustrates the divide between new, incoming leadership and the staffers from previous administrations who will remain in place. Though the Energy Department is the first to publicly rebuke a request from Trump’s transition team, it seems doubtful that it will be the last.
Trump’s latest moves on climate change, in particular, have made headlines lately due to several cabinet picks that include “climate change deniers” as well as an oil company CEO. Late Monday night, Reuters reported that former Texas Governor Rick Perry will likely be named Trump’s pick to run the Energy Department. Perry, a major advocate of oil drilling, proposed dismantling the Energy Department in 2011. If Perry is appointed, he will oversee an agency of 90,000 people that manage the nation’s nuclear weapons maintenance and research, nuclear energy, advanced renewable energy, batteries, and climate science.
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