E&E News' Northey previews next week's Perry confirmation hearing

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is set to face the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday for his confirmation hearing. What does the panel have planned, and how is Perry preparing? On today's The Cutting Edge, E&E News reporter Hannah Northey discusses the topics the panel is expected to question the nominee on and talks about the Washington insiders Perry is working with to prepare for the hearing.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is set to face the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee next Thursday for his confirmation hearing. What does the panel have planned, and how is Perry preparing?

Joining me today is E&E News reporter Hannah Northey. Hannah, thanks for joining me.

Hannah Northey: Mm-hmm.

Monica Trauzzi: So Hannah, Perry's hearing is not expected to be contentious. What do we know at this point about the line of questioning that we're going to hear from the panel? What are the topics?

Hannah Northey: Right. We're not expecting fireworks, but I think the members of the Senate ENR are going to ask him broadly about climate change. They're going to push him on whether — you know, what his beliefs are, as well as a contentious memo that was circulating by the Trump transition team at the agency looking for individuals who worked on climate-related meetings and the top-paid workers at the laboratories. So I think that senators are going to dig in on those broad issues.

I think they'll also ask about issues that are important to their own districts. Maria Cantwell, for example, is going to bring up Hanford. That's a cleanup, ongoing cleanup in her state of Washington. Whereas Sen. Rob Portman will probably ask about uranium enrichment projects in his state. So it'll be both broad and regional.

Monica Trauzzi: Right. And you've spoken to several Democrats on the panel. What's their mood going into this? Is it generally positive?

Hannah Northey: I think it ranges from cautiously optimistic to skeptical. I talked to Cantwell yesterday, and she said that she's had a good conversation with him. They talked about smart grid technology. But she's going to push him on policies. I think she's going to explore what's going to happen with funding for infrastructure and energy innovation.

All the way to members like Martin Heinrich, who said he's wholly unqualified, and members like Angus King, who is keeping an open mind but really questioned why the president-elect tapped someone to lead the agency who wants to dismantle it.

Monica Trauzzi: Right. And Perry at one time had said that we should do away with DOE. That's definitely going to come up at the hearing.

Hannah Northey: Yeah, so I think that's going to be the most important question asked at the confirmation hearing, and I think that he's probably going to step back from that position. Because you have to remember that the Department of Energy and the nation's 17 national labs are so critical to jobs in all of these senators' states. It has a lot of bipartisan support. And so he's probably going to talk about leading the agency and not taking it apart.

But Rick Perry also wrote a book about shrinking the federal government's footprint, so you're — members like Bernie Sanders or Al Franken, they're really going to ask about renewable energy funding and what's going to happen to the loan guarantee program and how he's going to manage the broad portfolio.

Monica Trauzzi: Who's in the study sessions with Perry? Who's prepping him?

Hannah Northey: So some D.C. insiders and also his former managers on — during his presidential bid. So Marc Palazzo, who has ties to the Kochs. He was a former director for Koch. And then Jeff Miller was his chief strategist during his political campaign. And then also Brian Waidmann. He was a former Interior official.

Monica Trauzzi: And you've also been doing some reporting on the names that are circulating for some additional positions at DOE and FERC. What's the latest on appointments?

Hannah Northey: Right. So while all the focus right now is on the Energy secretary, there're also lower positions that we're looking — like deputy secretary — and we're hearing members — Kristine Svinicki, she actually is sitting on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission right now. Another name that surfaces is Dan Brouillette, he is actually a former DOE official.

And then at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Trump is going to be able to appoint a chairman and two Republican members, and so it's kind of a precarious situation right now with three Democrats. And if any one of those Democrats leaves early, it's going to be — they're going to have trouble making high-profile decisions, rulemakings, etc.

So we're hearing the names Neil Chatterjee, Mitch McConnell's top energy aide, as well as Janet Sena, former utility executive. They could be possibly tapped to lead the agency.

Monica Trauzzi: All right. Very interesting stuff. Next week will be a busy week for us. We'll be watching Zinke, Pruitt and Perry.

Hannah Northey: That's right.

Monica Trauzzi: Yeah, a lot to report on. Thank you for joining me.

Hannah Northey: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.

[End of Audio]



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