You remember Rick Perry as Trump’s former Secretary of Energy – the man appointed to lead an agency he famously said he would eliminate, but could not recall the name of during a 2016 Republican Presidential Debate. You might also remember that as one of the “three amigos” Perry was a minor player in Trump’s impeachment drama, which might be what convinced him to resign abruptly at the end of last year.
But did you know that Perry, less than a few weeks out from the revolving door at the Department of Energy is rejoining the board at Energy Transfer LP? Energy Transfer is the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, and dozens of other environmental calamities. And Perry’s quick return to the paid employ of these climate profiteers is not just unseemly, it might be illegal.
Perry’s term as Energy Secretary was not exactly time spent away from the fossil fuel industry. He met with major coal leaders and proposed to bail out the entire coal industry. He pressured the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to support fossil fuels over renewables. And he was a huge supporter of the US exporting more fracked gas, famously praising it as “molecules of freedom”
But it was his help negotiating gas deals with high-ranking Ukraine officials in the middle of Trump’s campaign to get them to dig up ‘dirt’ on Joe Biden that got Congress’ attention. Perry quickly resigned, rather than face questions. But it turns out Congress can still hold him accountable – if they have the political will to act.
In the age of climate crisis we now live in, the Department of Energy has a tremendous opportunity, and obligation, to take action. We’ve already suggested how FERC, which is technically an independent division of the DOE, could be transformed into the Federal Renewable Energy Commission as part of a Green New Deal. And that’s only one part of the transformation the Energy Department could lead – investing in renewables, innovation, job training, battery storage, infrastructure to make our communities resilient to climate impacts – candidates and climate leaders have been laying out plans for more than a year.
As Energy Secretary, Rick Perry had a duty to act on those plans and proposals in ways that would save lives and fight the climate crisis. Instead, he cashed in a favor to go back to the board room of one of the biggest companies in the world profiting off climate chaos. At Energy Transfer, again, he’ll make big bucks ramping up fossil fuel infrastructure that locks us into decades of further dependence on the fuels that threaten our climate and common home. This cannot go unchallenged.