Rick Perry, Energy Nominee, Says He No Longer Wants To Dissolve Agency The former Texas governor once said he would abolish the Department of Energy. Now, as Trump's pick for the agency head, he said said his view on that — and global warming — have changed.
NPR logo

Rick Perry, Energy Nominee, Says He No Longer Wants To Dissolve Agency

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/510585966/510628893" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Rick Perry, Energy Nominee, Says He No Longer Wants To Dissolve Agency

Rick Perry, Energy Nominee, Says He No Longer Wants To Dissolve Agency

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/510585966/510628893" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Donald Trump's pick for secretary of energy says he no longer wants to get rid of the department. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry was on Capitol Hill today for his confirmation hearing, as NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Back in 2011, it was an embarrassing moment for Rick Perry during a presidential campaign debate when he couldn't remember the name of the agency he wanted to eliminate.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICK PERRY: And the - what's the third one? Let's see.

(LAUGHTER)

BRADY: It was the Department of Energy, and today Perry said he regrets ever suggesting that idea.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PERRY: My past statements, made over five years ago, about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking.

BRADY: Democrats on the panel grilled Perry about his past statements on climate change. At different times, Perry has questioned whether human activity contributes to climate change. At one campaign event, he accused scientists of manipulating data so their research funding stream would continue to flow. Today, again, his message was different.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PERRY: I believe the climate has changed. I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is caused by manmade activity. The question is how we address it in a thoughtful way that doesn't compromise economic growth.

BRADY: The ranking Democrat on the committee, Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington state, challenged the second half of that statement.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARIA CANTWELL: I guarantee you today we're compromising economic growth because of our overdependence on fossil fuel.

BRADY: Cantwell told Perry climate change is hurting her state's economy. It makes wildfires more intense and hurts the shellfish industry. Cantwell also pressed Perry on a questionnaire that the Trump transition team circulated through the Department of Energy. It sought the names of employees who attended climate change meetings. Current energy secretary Ernest Moniz refused the request. Perry said that questionnaire went out before he was nominated.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PERRY: I didn't approve it. I don't approve of it. I don't need that information. I don't want that information. That is not how I manage.

BRADY: How Perry will manage the Department of Energy is a key question for his critics. He's not a scientist, and science is a big part of what the agency does. It oversees 17 national laboratories and is charged with keeping the country's nuclear weapons safe. Perry said as governor of Texas, he learned how to identify talented people who can help him manage agencies. On renewable energy, Perry said if confirmed he'll support and promote all kinds of energy. He reminded senators that Texas became the number one wind energy producer while he was governor. How to handle nuclear waste from power plants was another big issue. Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto sought assurance that the Yucca Mountain repository in her state would never be used, but Perry made no promise.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PERRY: I will not sit here in front of you in a committee hearing and tell you absolutely no way is Nevada going to be the recipient of any high-level waste.

BRADY: There was a moment of levity when Minnesota Senator Al Franken referred to a conversation he had with Perry before the hearing.

AL FRANKEN: Did you enjoy meeting me?

(LAUGHTER)

PERRY: I hope you are as much fun on that dais as you are on your couch.

FRANKEN: Well...

(LAUGHTER)

PERRY: May I rephrase that, sir?

FRANKEN: Please.

BRADY: The Energy and Natural Resources Committee has not scheduled a vote on Perry's nomination yet. If senators there approve, Perry's nomination would go to a vote of the full Senate. Jeff Brady, NPR News.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.