The Department of Energy won’t be handing over a list of employees who worked on global warming issues to President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.
“We will be forthcoming with all publically-available [sic] information with the transition team. We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team,” agency spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder told Washington Post columnist Joe Davidson.
Bloomberg obtained a Trump transition team questionnaire sent to DOE officials. The news outlet reported Trump’s team wanted DOE “to list employees and contractors who attended United Nations climate meetings, along with those who helped develop the Obama administration’s social cost of carbon metrics.”
Union representatives and Democratic lawmakers flipped out at the news. Environmental activists joined in, even spreading a rumor that Trump would delete public climate change databases.
DOE has reassured employees it would not cooperate with the incoming administration on that point.
“The Department of Energy received significant feedback from our workforce throughout the department, including the National Labs, following the release of the transition team’s questions,” Burnham-Snyder said. “Some of the questions asked left many in our workforce unsettled.”
“Our career workforce, including our contractors and employees at our labs, comprise the backbone of DOE (Department of Energy) and the important work our department does to benefit the American people,” Burnham-Snyder said. “We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department.”
But is the leaked questionnaire prelude to mass firings or marginalization of DOE employees? Here’s what Trump’s team asked DOE for regarding employees’ work on global warming:
Most of the questions are innocuous, asking general questions about DOE authority and day-to-day operation of agency programs. But questions regarding the “social cost of carbon,” for example, got Democrats riled up.
“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.’” Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings told Davison.
It’s really hard to fire career government employees, short of committing a crime. And DOE’s withholding of employee names is more a symbolic act since Trump’s team can figure all this out once the officially take control.
Trump’s DOE transition team is headed by Tom Pyle, the president of the American Energy Alliance (AEA) and the Institute of Energy Research (IER). Both AEA and IER have been critical of DOE regulations, especially the agency’s work on the “social cost of carbon,” or SCC, measure.
The SCC has been used by the Obama administration to make regulations seem more cost-effective than they would otherwise be. Conservatives have opposed the SCC, calling it a political tool to push President Obama’s agenda.
The Obama administration raised the SCC to $35 per metric ton in 2013, but more recent work suggests the SCC could be negative — meaning carbon dioxide emissions yield net benefits for the planet.
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