Politics

Trump Team Alarms Energy Department With Intrusive Memo

| by Kathryn Schroeder

A memo sent to the U.S. Department of Energy by President-elect Donald Trump’s energy transition team requesting the names of people who have worked on climate change and other detailed staff information has alarmed employees and advisors.

"This feels like the first draft of an eventual political enemies list," a DOE employee, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal by the Trump transition team, told Reuters.

The Trump Energy Department transition team sent the 74 question memo on Dec. 6. One question asked for a list of all department employees or contractors who have attended meetings on the social cost of carbon, a measurement federal agencies use to weigh the costs and benefits of new energy and environment regulations. Another asked for all publications employees at the DOE's 17 national laboratories have written in the past three years.

"They're certainly sending an aggressive signal here with some of these questions and they need to be careful," said Dan Reicher, a professor at Stanford University and advisor to U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

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The memo also requested a list of all department employees and contractors who attended the United Nations annual global climate change talks within the last five years. A list of projects at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which funds research into high risk clean energy projects, was requested, too.

The Trump energy transition team also wants the names of the 20 top salaried employees at the DOE's labs, and a list of the websites that lab staff maintain or contribute to during work hours.

"When Donald Trump said he wanted to drain the swamp it apparently was just to make room for witch hunts and it's starting here at the DOE and our 17 national labs," the DOE employee said.

"I worry about some of the questions being sent that could unnecessarily alienate key career staff, because they need the career staff and lab professionals to get the daily work done," Reicher said.

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Trump said during his campaign that climate change was a hoax perpetrated by China to damage U.S. manufacturing, and that he would rip up the Paris Agreement on climate change signed by President Barack Obama.

The Paris Agreement, which aims to combat climate change globally, is supported by more than 100 developing countries, including China, according to ABC News Australia.

Following his election win, Trump said he would keep an “open mind” about the Paris deal, and he met with former Vice President Al Gore, an advocate for climate change, Reuters reports.

Trump told The New York Times that “there is some connectivity” between human activity and climate change, according to Business Insider.

But when Trump chose Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, the environmental community lost hope that Trump would change his stance on climate change. Pruitt has close ties to the fossil-fuel industry, and created a state unit dedicated to opposing Obama’s EPA regulations.

"I don't think there are any mixed signals," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, told Business Insider. "Trump has been very consistent throughout the last year and a half saying that he doesn't think that climate change is real, that he doesn't intend to do anything about it."

"One little head fake with The New York Times or a meeting or two doesn't negate the fact that he has taken just about every opportunity to appoint people to his transition team and now to nominate an EPA head -- these are folks who don't believe that climate change is real, don't think that the US government should continue its role in public health, and side with the fossil-fuel industry over the American public," he added.

Two sources at the EPA told Reuters that the Trump administration has not sent the agency a memo similar to the one received by the DOE.

Sources: Reuters, ABC News AustraliaBusiness Insider / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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