President-elect Donald Trump has selected Rick Perry as his nominee for secretary of energy, saying in a Dec. 14 statement that the former governor of Texas will lead the administration's efforts to "take advantage of our huge natural resource deposits to make America energy independent and create vast new wealth for our nation."
Perry twice campaigned unsuccessfully to become the Republican candidate for president, including against Trump in the most recent election cycle. During a November 2011 debate, Perry famously forgot that he had previously pledged to scrap the U.S. Department of Energy should he become president. Perry is now the nominee to lead that agency.
The Energy Department oversees research and development in energy technologies including clean energy, carbon capture and sequestration and nuclear power; energy policy such as efficiency standards; and enhancements in defense nuclear safety.
As governor of Texas, Perry oversaw a state on the leading edge of oil and gas production. But the state also championed wind generation and renewable energy investment, and currently leads the country in wind additions.
Salo Zelermyer, senior counsel with Bracewell LLC who previously served as senior counsel for DOE as well, said Perry's 15 years as governor have been critical to domestic energy policy. During that time, Zelermyer said Perry embodied the "all of the above" approach to U.S. energy policy that has been a hallmark of Trump's campaign.
"This approach is a big reason why Texas experienced such enormous job growth during Perry’s tenure. This track record will serve Perry well not only in leading DOE but also in becoming a significant part of the new administration’s approach to issues like regulatory reform and infrastructure investment," Zelermyer said. "As Texas has shown, it is indeed possible to successfully balance appropriate environmental regulations with domestic energy production and use."
Whether Perry fully sees eye-to-eye with Trump remains to be seen, however. The two traded barbs during the Republican primary, with Perry calling Trump a "cancer on conservatism," according to a Dec. 11 report in The Guardian. Trump has said Perry lacks the "energy," "brain power" and "toughness" to be an effective president, according to a July 2015 report from CBS News. Perry, who withdrew from the race in September 2015, later changed his stance, endorsing Trump and calling him "the people's choice."
Environmentalists responded to the news that Perry would be the Energy Department secretary-nominee with dismay, calling Perry "uniquely unqualified" to run the agency.
"He has so little regard for the agency that he has pushed for it to be eliminated during his presidential race," said Benjamin Schreiber, director of climate and energy for Friends of the Earth. Schreiber also pointed to Perry's connections to the Dakota Access Pipeline as a conflict of interest, which should disqualify him from the job.
League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski was critical of Perry as the latest Trump pick for his cabinet. In addition to Perry, Trump has nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for the U.S. EPA and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., has also been rumored to be a leading candidate for secretary of the interior.
"Oops. Trump did it again. With these nominations, it's clearer than ever that Donald Trump is hoping to install the most anti-environmental cabinet in our nation's history," Karpinski said. He added that the nominations add up to Trump creating "a polluter paradise that is completely at odds with public support for protecting our air, water, lands and wildlife."
Karpinski said the league is ready "to go to the mat on all fronts" to fight any attempts to roll back recent climate progress or "bedrock" environmental laws.