An Energy Department contractor says Politico misconstrued her comments about working on a major electric grid report, which made it seem like she was accusing the Trump administration of political interference.
Politico reported on Monday that energy consultant Alison Silverstein “resisted pressure from the agency to blame regulations for the struggles of coal and nuclear plants,” citing a recent interview with Forbes.
The Energy Department (DOE) hired Silverstein to spearhead a report on how coal and nuclear plant retirements were impacting electric grid reliability. Silverstein told Forbes that she butted heads with Energy Department officials over the role regulations played in closing coal plants.
However, Silverstein rejected the characterization DOE was trying to tell her what to write, telling Politico on Tuesday that “DOE staff told me (properly) to look at regulations and I did so.”
“But DOE staff did not try tell me what to conclude in that inquiry,” she said.
This is the second time in the last two months Silverstein has said DOE did not try to skew the results of the grid report — many observers expected DOE to skew the study to favor coal and nuclear power.
“DOE management had a lot of warning about where the facts were going, but no one ever tried to interfere, no one ever tried to deny the facts, no one tried to tell me what to write,” Silverstein told the podcast Grid Geeks in September.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry commissioned the study in March, and almost immediately there was speculation it would favor coal and nuclear power. The wind energy industry orchestrated a campaign to discredit the study that included working with allies and The New York Times.
Ultimately, DOE’s report put most of the blame for closing coal-fired and nuclear power plants on economic factors, mainly the advent of low-priced natural gas from hydraulic fracturing.
“I got to DOE, and I set up a storyboard, and I started writing,” Silverstein told Forbes. “And they called me in one day and they said, ‘There’s nothing in here about regulation, the horrible effects of regulation on all of these plants.'”
“I said, ‘Well, it wasn’t a big deal,'” she said. “And they said, ‘But you’re biased against regulation.'”
“And I said, ‘Bring me the data. I’ve been in the building three or four weeks now, you guys are the ones who own the issue. Prove to me, bring me all of your research on how regulation has killed these,'” Silverstein said.
“‘Well, we don’t have any,'” she said. “‘Then how am I supposed to do this?'”
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