Energy Department Sends Donald Trump a Firm Message About Climate Change

December 13th 2016

Lucy Tiven

The Department of Energy has rejected a request from President-elect Donald Trump's transition team for the names of staffers who have worked on climate change, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. The team had asked for the names as part of a 74-point questionnaire for those who may have worked on climate change or clean energy programs.

Department of Energy spokesperson Eben Burnham-Snyder said in a statement that DOE workers were unnerved by the request.

"We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team,” Burnham-Snyder wrote. The department will, however, comply with requests for "publically-available information."

ATTN: reached out to Trump transition team National Press Secretary Hope Hicks for comment and will update this story if necessary.

The DOE questionnaire, first reported on Friday, was shared with The New York Times by department employees who requested anonymity.

Current and former Energy Department staffers voiced concern over the requests Friday.

From Politico:

"'Sounds like a freaking witch hunt,' one former DOE staffer wrote in an email.

"'It is a remarkably aggressive and antagonistic tone to take with an agency that you’re about to try to manage,' a current agency employee said. Another DOE staffer expressed the view that 'some [of the questions] are harassment, some are naive, some are legitimate.'

"'Why is that important for informing the transition team?' the person said of the list of people who worked on climate issues."

“With some of these questions," a DOE employee told the Post on Friday, "it feels more like an inquisition than a question, in terms of going after career employees who have been here through the Bush years to Clinton, and up to now. All of a sudden you have questions that feel more like a congressional investigation than an actual probing of how the Department of Energy does its job.”

Employees were "stunned" by the questionnaires' demands, National Treasury Employees Union president Tony Reardon told told the Post Tuesday.

“There is major concern amongst my members,” added Jeff Eagan, president of the union's chapter at the DOE headquarters. “I have received lots of calls, emails, messages expressing shock and dismay.”

Elijah Cummings, a Democratic lawmakers from Maryland, said he was troubled by the Trump team's request.

“This looks like a scare tactic to intimidate federal employees who are simply doing their jobs and following the facts,” Cummings told the Post. “I am sure there are a lot of career scientists and others who see this as a terrible message of fear and intimidation — ‘either ignore the science or we will come after you.’"

The DOE statement arrives in the midst of Trump's cabinet selections, which have included a large number of nominees with ties to the oil and coal industries.

"Carbon Zero" author Alex Steffen highlighted the pattern on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, it was reported that Trump plans to nominate former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy. Perry has a long record of promoting fossil fuels and denying climate change, Mother Jones reports.

Perry's administration reportedly had the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality censor references to climate science in a state report, according to a 2011 story from Mother Jones. Perry also sits on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, the owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline, CNBC reports.

The head of Energy Transfer Partners donated over $100,000 to Trump's campaign and another $67,000 to the Republican National Committee, according to The Guardian, and the next U.S. president has invested in the company.