Perry Promises Cantwell That Climate Research Will Continue at DOE, Scientists Will Be Protected, and Cybersecurity Will Be a Top Priority

Sen. Cantwell Questions Gov. Perry During His Nomination Hearing

January 19, 2017

Watch Cantwell’s Opening Statement: on YouTube.
Watch the Exchange between Cantwell and Perry: on YouTube.
Share this news on Twitter.

Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) pressed former Governor Rick Perry, the president-elect’s nominee for Energy Secretary, on climate science, on protecting department employees and on cybersecurity efforts at the department.

There are 15,000 Washingtonians who work at Hanford, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and other department facilities. Sen. Cantwell asked Gov. Perry to assure employees and contractors that they will not be singled out or unfairly treated because of the work they did during the Obama administration on climate and clean energy: “I want to know your commitment to protecting these individuals and the scientific budget that goes along with them?

Gov. Perry responded, “My commitment to you, and the members of this committee, is to obviously not only reach across the political aisles, but also to work with the men and women who I have an extraordinary amount of respect for at the Department of Energy to find the solutions to these many challenges that we have.”

Last month, Sen. Cantwell sent letters to Vice President-Elect Pence and to Secretary Moniz, expressing strong concern about some questions sent to the Energy Department about staff working on climate science. The Transition Team announced it had not authorized sending the questions to the Energy Department, but it never distanced itself from the substance of the questions. Today marks the first time an administration nominee has gone on the record disavowing the sentiments within that questionnaire.

Sen. Cantwell then emphasized the importance of the climate science work at the Energy Department. “I believe that it is the consensus of the scientific community that climate change is real. It is happening now, and it is due to human activity. … The Department of Energy’s scientific horsepower is key to understanding these trends,” Sen. Cantwell said. “Climate science … is not just some academic pursuit. We need the information for very important decisions. The nature and the pace of these changes have serious impacts.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is one of the largest public investors in climate science and carbon-reduction technology. Given DOE’s important research function, Sen. Cantwell also requested a commitment from Gov. Perry to continue funding for climate science and technology programs. Gov. Perry said, “I’m going to protect all of the science, whether it’s related to the climate or to the other aspects of what we’re going to be doing.”

Sen. Cantwell also urged adoption of recommendations within the Quadrennial Energy Review on cybersecurity. DOE plays an important role in protecting the grid from cyber attacks. “In light of recent revelations about Russian hacking, the next Secretary of Energy needs to take very seriously the threats to our nation’s electricity grid. We are increasingly becoming a wired economy. My constituents spend night and days developing new technologies. They deserve a president and an Energy Secretary who are going to take the threats of Russian hacking seriously and defend us against them,” Sen. Cantwell said.

“I’ll be honest with you, Senator—no matter what players, whether it’s a formal state or a group loosely associated, if they’re trying to penetrate into Americans’ lives, whether it’s private citizens or the highest level of government, you will see me engaged at the highest levels, working across agencies, with DARPA, ARPA-E, ARPA-I [Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity],” Gov. Perry said. “I feel very certain, if confirmed, that we have in our scientific laboratories and private sectors the fertile minds, the technology and the ability to stop the cybersnooping or—for that matter—the intentions to do harm to our people.