Cantwell: I Oppose Perry as Energy Secretary

Perry’s Unwillingness To Commit To Funding Critical DOE Programs and Missions Remains a Key Concern for Cantwell

Download broadcast-quality video of Sen. Cantwell’s closing statement.
Watch her statement on YouTube.

Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) urged her colleagues to vote “no” on the nomination of former Governor Rick Perry as secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE):

We need an energy secretary for the 21st century—one that will help us by fighting for an [efficient] electricity grid and cybersecurity [protections] that will make our entire internet economy safer and more reliable. We need one who will invest in an energy efficiency strategy that will save our businesses money that will help make them competitive.

We've had the last two presidents make energy efficiency a key priority—President Bush by advocating for plug-in vehicles and President Obama who made a major investment in smart grids, … efficiency, … and clean energy jobs. Gov. Perry has not committed to those same principles that are going to move us towards those 21st century jobs. We don't want to leave this part of our economy behind. I encourage my colleagues to oppose his nomination.”

Sen. Cantwell believes this vote shouldn’t be taken lightly. The Energy Department performs numerous missions vital to national security. The department’s national labs and scientists help drive our leadership in the global economy. And the department plays an important role in the lives of families across the nation who rely on affordable and efficient energy to balance household budgets.  

Additionally, the Energy Secretary is an important post for the state of Washington. Washington is home to the world’s most technically complex nuclear waste clean-up at the Hanford site. The efficient and affordable cost-based electricity marketed by the Bonneville Power Administration is a major economic driver for the region. And partnerships between the research and development horsepower of DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, research universities and the state’s broader innovation economy have put Washington state at the leading edge of cyber, advanced grid and smart building technologies.

The next Energy Secretary must be able to effectively manage the department and its employees. But it is equally important for the secretary to defend the department’s key functions when they come under attack from ideologues in the White House seeking to disqualify sound science or dismantle the growing clean energy economy.

After all, the transition to a clean energy economy is well underway, with 2.2 million Americans working in energy efficiency, and one out of every 50 new jobs created in the solar industry. In fact, the solar industry employs more people than the oil and gas extraction or coal mining industries.

We have made too much progress [on] … these important issues that are going to drive more savings for consumers and businesses, so they can be competitive,” Sen. Cantwell said, urging that the administration not reverse course on important renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.

On the day of Gov. Perry’s confirmation hearing, news outlets reported that the president’s team was working on a proposal to eliminate several important offices within the Energy Department, including the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, as well as the Office of Electricity, which leads research efforts on protecting the electricity grid from cyberattacks.

I don’t understand why the Trump administration is so hostile to energy efficiency,” Sen. Cantwell said. After all, the Energy Department’s energy efficiency programs and standards are expected to save U.S. consumers and businesses $2 trillion on their utility bills by 2030. Energy efficiency is not—nor should be—a partisan issue.

Gov. Perry’s record in Texas also raises concerns. Gov. Perry tried to add 11 new coal plants in the state—eight of which were cancelled after a court overturned the governor’s executive order expediting the permitting process. “[This] shows you the kind of leadership that we cannot afford at the Department of Energy. This should not be about holding onto the past. It is about planning for the future,” Sen. Cantwell said.

This nomination is not the direction the Department of Energy needs to go in. I oppose Gov. Perry for the Department of Energy,” Sen. Cantwell concluded.

Sen. Cantwell noted that she will work with Gov. Perry in his new role once he’s confirmed, because the federal government has a legal and moral obligation to clean up Hanford and the other nuclear weapons complex sites. “I take the governor at his word that he will come to Hanford and that he will look for funding to make sure that cleanup happens.”

Gov. Perry was confirmed to be Energy Secretary by a vote of 62 to 37.