Trump transition asks Energy Department to name staff who support Obama climate policies

A memo sent to the department asks for names of those involved in Obama climate policies and U.N. climate meetings.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
CREDIT: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

The Trump transition team has asked for a list of Energy Department employees and contractors who attended United Nations climate meetings and worked on key Obama administration climate policies, including the social cost of carbon, according to a Bloomberg report.

The requests, detailed in a memo sent to the Energy Department by the Trump transition team, suggests that President-elect Trump is not backing down from his campaign promises to completely abandon the Obama administration’s approach to U.S. climate and energy policies, and instead adopt a policy that is much friendlier to fossil fuels and much more hostile to regulations that seek to curb greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

The social cost of carbon is a metric used to calculate the concrete benefits of certain climate policies — basically, the economic damages associated with an increase in carbon emissions. Right now, the social cost of carbon is used in various kinds of rule-making, from the Department of Energy to the EPA. But Republican lawmakers have long been critical of the metric, and Donald Trump’s energy advisers have made no secret of their desire to kill the metric altogether.

Trump has also been very vocal about his disdain for the U.N. Paris climate agreement, a historic agreement in which nearly 200 nations agreed to significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Trump has called the agreement “bad for U.S. business” and said that it allows “foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use” — a false claim, as the agreement is built off of emission limits pledged by each country independently.

According to two Energy Department employees, who spoke with Bloomberg on the condition of anonymity, the memo sent to agency staff “unsettled” many within the agency. But a person close to Trump’s transition team told Bloomberg that the memo was merely meant to “ensure transparency on the formation of existing, Obama-era policy.”

In addition to seeking information about specific staff and contractors, the memo also singled out the Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) unit, which has helped support research and development of clean energy projects. According to Bloomberg, the transition team asked for “a complete list of ARPA-E’s projects,” as well as specific information on “Mission Innovation,”an agency initiative meant to accelerate the public and private transition to clean energy, and “Clean Energy Ministerial,” a global forum aimed at advancing clean energy technologies.

The transition team’s focus on ARPA-E seems to suggest that Trump is looking to follow through on another campaign promise to pull all federal funding on clean energy development. That would put Trump at odds with a majority of his voters, however, as 75 percent of them want the government to help accelerate the growth of clean energy — not kill it.