Donald Trump has selected one of the best-known climate skeptics to lead his U.S. EPA transition team, according to two sources close to the campaign.
Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, is spearheading Trump’s transition plans for EPA, the sources said.
The Trump team has also lined up leaders for its Energy Department and Interior Department teams. Republican energy lobbyist Mike McKenna is heading the DOE team; former Interior Department solicitor David Bernhardt is leading the effort for that agency, according to sources close to the campaign.
Ebell is a well-known and polarizing figure in the energy and environment realm. His participation in the EPA transition signals that the Trump team is looking to drastically reshape the climate policies the agency has pursued under the Obama administration. Ebell’s role is likely to infuriate environmentalists and Democrats but buoy critics of Obama’s climate rules.
Ebell, who was dubbed an "elegant nerd" and a "policy wonk" by Vanity Fair, is known for his prolific writings that question what he calls climate change "alarmism." He appears frequently in the media and before Congress. He’s also chairman of the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group of nonprofits that "question global warming alarmism and oppose energy-rationing policies."
Ebell appears to relish criticism from the left.
In a biography submitted when he testified before Congress, he listed among his recognitions that he had been featured in a Greenpeace "Field Guide to Climate Criminals," dubbed a "misleader" on global warming by Rolling Stone and was the subject of a motion to censure in the British House of Commons after Ebell criticized the United Kingdom’s chief scientific adviser for his views on global warming.
More recently, Ebell has called the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan for greenhouse gases illegal and said that Obama joining the Paris climate treaty "is clearly an unconstitutional usurpation of the Senate’s authority."
He told Vanity Fair in 2007, "There has been a little bit of warming … but it’s been very modest and well within the range for natural variability, and whether it’s caused by human beings or not, it’s nothing to worry about."
Ebell’s views appear to square with Trump’s when it comes to EPA’s agenda. Trump has called global warming "bullshit" and he has said he would "cancel" the Paris global warming accord and roll back President Obama’s executive actions on climate change (ClimateWire, May 27).
Leading the Trump DOE team: GOP hired gun McKenna.
The president of MWR Strategies is well known in Republican energy circles. He was director of policy and external affairs for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality under then-Gov. George Allen (R) and was an external relations specialist at the Energy Department during the George H.W. Bush administration.
His lobbying clients in 2016 include Koch Companies Public Sector LLC, Southern Company Services, Dow Chemical Co. and Competitive Power Ventures Inc., according to public disclosures.
And heading Interior’s transition effort is Bernhardt, co-chairman of the Natural Resources Department at the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.
He served as Interior’s solicitor during the George W. Bush administration after holding several other high-ranking jobs at the department.
In addition to the EPA, Interior and DOE team leaders, GOP energy expert Mike Catanzaro is also working on energy policy for the Trump transition team (Greenwire, Sept. 14).
During the Obama transition in 2008, a relatively small team was assembled ahead of the election in order to map out broad policy goals.
Following the election, the operation expanded dramatically and teams were dispatched to work out of agencies to gather information from political staffers and career officials, write flurries of memos and compile thick binders of intelligence to hand over to the incoming leadership (Greenwire, Aug. 19, 2016).
Should Trump win in November, Ebell, McKenna and Bernhardt will likely be leading similar efforts to reform their respective agencies.
Ebell and McKenna directed questions about their roles to the Trump transition team. The Trump campaign and Bernhardt did not respond to requests for comment.
This story also appears in ClimateWire.