President-elect Donald J. Trump has tapped Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, to lead the Energy Department, a cabinet post that Mr. Perry once said he wanted to eliminate, The New York Times reported.
As The Times writes, the Energy Department is an agency far more devoted to national security and basic science than to the extraction of fossil fuels that is Mr. Perry’s expertise.
“The Rick Perry choice is so perplexing,” said former Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, who for years led the committee that oversees the Energy Department’s budget.
“I think very few people understand that the Energy Department, to a very substantial degree, is dealing with nuclear weapons,” he said. “And Rick Perry suggested the agency should be abolished. That suggests he thinks it doesn’t have value.”
Already, Mr. Trump’s transition team has raised fear that he will target the agency’s climate change programs and the people who run them.
This month, the transition team circulated an unusual 74-point questionnaire at the Energy Department that requested the names of all employees and contractors who had attended climate change policy conferences, as well as emails and documents about the conferences.
A request for lists of specific people involved in shaping climate policy was “irregular and alarming,” Department employees said Tuesday, adding that the choice of a secretary who has vowed to eliminate the agency “compounded those fears.”
Energy Department spokesman, Eben Burnham-Snyder, said the agency had refused to give the names. “Some of the questions asked left many in our workforce unsettled,” he wrote in an email.
“We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department,” he wrote. “We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team.”
Perry’s proposal to eliminate the agency led to one of the most famous gaffes in recent presidential politics after he famously forgot that the U.S. Energy Department was one of the agencies he had pledged to eliminate if he were to become president.
“Oops,” Mr. Perry said in 2011 as he racked his brain during a nationally televised Republican primary debate, trying to remember the three departments he wanted to dismantle. He mentioned the Commerce and Education Departments but could not recall the third: the Energy Department.
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