President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Department of Energy is sure to get pounded by Democrats over the nominee’s financial ties to a controversial pipeline in North Dakota.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who once said he’d eliminate the DOE, could become Trump’s main guy at the agency, sources told CBS News. His chances of being confirmed for the top spot, of course, hinge on how Democrats react to the Republican’s deep financial ties to the Dakota Access pipeline.
Perry has served as a director of Energy Transfer Partners, the developer behind the multi-billion dollar project, since early 2015 and owns $100,000 worth of stock in the company, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission form filed in January. He also serves on the board of Sunoco Logistics Partners LP, which announced Monday it was purchasing ETP for a hefty $21 billion.
He could become the director of an agency responsible for the country’s nuclear weapons, funding energy technology, and maintaining the nuclear power for the U.S. military, among other things. The DOE was used by President Barack Obama to plow massive subsidies into various renewable energy projects.
Environmental activists are not thrilled about the possibility of Perry earning a cabinet spot in Trump’s administration. They believe Perry’s ties to the DAPL could create a conflict of interest if the line’s fate falls at the Texas Republican’s feet.
“If Trump is serious, he will require all appointments to cut all financial ties with these big corporations which are clear conflicts of interest,” Jane Kleeb, an activist with environmental group Bold Alliance, told reporters in November about Perry’s possible nomination.
Many of the same groups that opposed the Keystone XL pipeline have joined the fight against the DAPL, which would bring 470,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil per day from western North Dakota to southern Illinois. Kleeb’s Bold Alliance spearheaded the fight against Keystone.
American Indian tribes and environmentalists believe DAPL’s construction would trample on tribal lands and potentially poison the Missouri River and Lake Oahe, a source of water for the Standing Rock Sioux.
The nearly 1,200-mile long pipeline route crossing underneath the Missouri River was rejected by the Army Corps of Engineers on Dec. 4, but could just as easily be re-affirmed by the real estate tycoon turned president elect.
Environmentalists and are also concerned that Perry, through Trump’s direction, could purge the DOE of employees engaging in studying climate change policies.
Trump’s transition team circulated a questionnaire to the DOE requesting information about specific employees who’ve worked on climate change policies, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.
The president-elect, for his part, also dumped $500,000 and $1 million into the ETP, according to financial disclosure forms Trump filed in 2015.
The financial disclosure form filed in 2015 indicates the former reality TV star shoveled another $500,000 in Phillips 66 as well, which will have a 25 percent ownership in DAPL once complete.
Trump’s spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, told the Washington Post in November that Trump dumped his ETP stocks in late summer. Hicks didn’t not offer any evidence to back up her claim.
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