Barrasso Opening Statement at Nominations Hearing

August 3, 2021

Click here to watch Ranking Member Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered the following remarks at a nominations hearing.

The hearing featured testimony from Dr. Geraldine Richmond, nominee to be under secretary for Science at the Department of Energy; Ms. Cynthia Weiner Stachelberg, nominee to be assistant secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget at the Department of the Interior; and Dr. Asmeret Berhe, nominee to be director of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy. 

For more information on witness testimony click here. 

Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 

“I also want to welcome and congratulate the nominees – Dr. Richmond, Dr. Berhe, and Ms. Stachelberg, to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. 

“Congratulations on the nominations. 

“If confirmed as under secretary for Science and Energy, Dr. Richmond would have important responsibilities spanning the Office of Science and the Department’s applied energy offices. 

“You’ve been a chemistry professor for over 40 year – including the last 35 years at the University of Oregon. 

“Served in leadership positions on numerous boards and received many honors and awards relating to the Department of Energy and the scientific community with which it collaborates. 

“You appear to be highly qualified to serve as under secretary for Science and Energy.

“I cannot say the same for Dr. Berhe’s qualifications to serve as director of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy. 

“Dr. Berhe has been professor of soil biogeochemistry at the University of California, Merced for over a decade and has focused her research on soil management and sequestering carbon in soil. 

“Her background and experience appear to have little to do with the Department of Energy’s main scientific focus and the scientific community with which it collaborates. 

“In a May 9, 2021 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by a theoretical physicist noted: ‘Ms. Berhe’s research program on soil chemistry, exploring the capture of carbon dioxide, is relevant to climate change policy. But her research expertise isn’t in any of the Office of Science’s major programs, and she has no experience as a scientific administrator and minimal experience with the Energy Department itself. Past directors have been established researchers from one of the major fields supported by the department, or they have administered large private laboratories like Bell Labs – in line with the demands of the job. It is hard not to wonder whether Ms. Berhe is the right choice for a leadership role at the DOE.’ 

“Certain public positions Dr. Berhe has taken and endorsed are also concerning. 

“On February 18, 2021, she retweeted the statement: ‘I’m just going to propose that a nation that can land a SUV sized rover in an ancient lake on another planet can build an electrical grid that is not f---ing useless because of slavish devotion to the free market.’ 

“On May 7, 2015, she wrote in Science that ‘the practice of farming’ is to blame for climate change. 

“I am also concerned about Ms. Stachelberg’s qualifications to serve in the position to which she has been nominated. 

“The assistant secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget plays a central role in policy development, organizational management, and fiscal stewardship at the Department of the Interior. 

“Ms. Stachelberg appears to have little, if any, background or experience in public lands, natural resources, energy, or other policy issues managed by the Department of the Interior. 

“For the past twenty-five years, Ms. Stachelberg has worked as a political activist at the Center for American Progress and the Human Rights Campaign. 

“The only issue she appears to have focused on that is even remotely within the realm of the Department of the Interior is gun control. 

“I am a supporter of the second amendment and the sportsmen and women that rely on it. 

“I don’t believe that gun control advocacy is a helpful qualification for a job at the Department of Interior.

“Again, welcome to each of the nominees. 

“I look forward to hearing more about your qualifications, your policy views, and your plans for ensuring the work of the Departments of Energy and the Interior benefit all Americans, including those in my home state of Wyoming.”