Source: E&E News | Hannah Northey | February 6, 2017
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) vowed to quickly get up to speed on a vast array of complex programs within the sprawling Department of Energy but stopped short of committing to keeping all programs or funding the agency at levels comparable to recent years, according to documents obtained by E&E News.
Perry, President Trump’s nominee to lead the agency, told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in response to written questions that he would review “appropriate” funding for a number of programs tied to renewable energy and efficiency currently rumored to be on the chopping block.
Those answers likely fueled opposition from the majority of Democrats on the Senate committee, which voted 16-7 to approve Perry’s nomination last month (Greenwire, Jan. 31). All 12 Republicans on the committee supported Perry’s nomination, as did Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, along with Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent.
Throughout his answers, Perry carefully steps around funding questions for offices tied to renewable energy and efficiency, as well as billion-dollar loan guarantees.
In one question, Perry was asked whether he would commit to finishing the SunShot Initiative that former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz began. “If I am confirmed, I look forward to being briefed on this program,” Perry responded.
In yet another question, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked Perry whether he would commit to maintaining or increasing funding for programs like the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, the Office of Science, and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy — all of which are rumored to face massive budget cuts under the Trump administration.
If confirmed, Perry said, he would “commit to fully reviewing all aspects of the Department’s budget and working with Congress to ensure an appropriate funding level for these programs.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the panel’s top Democrat, probed Perry about his criticism of DOE’s loan guarantee program, specifically the now-defunct Solyndra project, all while he created a similar fund in Texas with a “success rate not nearly as high as the federal program.” Perry responded that he was proud of his record in the Lone Star State and vowed to review the DOE program.
“I am proud of my record in Texas supporting emerging technologies,” Perry wrote. “If confirmed, I commit to reviewing the loan guarantee program and evaluate its successes and failures. I am committed to both investing in energy innovation and using taxpayer dollars responsibly.”
But Perry did broadly promise to be fair in funding the agency.
“Should I be confirmed, I have pledged to be an advocate for the department and the programs for which Congress authorizes and appropriates money,” he wrote.
Cantwell at Perry’s markup blasted the former governor for speaking “eloquently about energy diversification” while choosing to spend his time in office adding 11 new coal plants and suing U.S. EPA “every chance he could.”
Cantwell also asked what Perry would do to ensure the loan guarantee program is expanded to ensure the United States leads in cutting-edge energy technology, to which Perry replied, “Until I am more fully briefed, I cannot say whether these programs should be expanded. I share your commitment to ensuring that the U.S. is a leader in cutting edge energy technology.”
Questions from Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) veered toward his views on climate change and how he would handle cost-benefit analyses. Perry continually reiterated his assertion that climate change is indeed happening while questioning the link to human activities.
In one question, Wyden asked whether Perry intended to incorporate the social cost of carbon into his cost-benefit analyses and policymaking decisions at DOE. “I intend to review and evaluate all existing mechanisms currently used in the cost-benefit and policy making decisions at the Department of Energy,” Perry replied.
In other areas, Perry repeatedly vowed to learn about the agency’s functions, telling one Republican senator he had not been fully briefed on the Office of Technology Transitions.
Sanders also appeared to push Perry on his ties to the billionaire Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council, writing, “How can you assure the American people you will be looking out for them as secretary of Energy and not oil industry extremists who have given you hundreds of thousands of dollars and influenced your policy initiatives throughout your entire political career?”
“As governor, I was always looking out for Texans, first and foremost,” Perry replied. “If confirmed, I will look out for the good of all Americans with respect to DOE’s important mission.”