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Energy Dept. refuses to hand over names of climate policy staffers to Trump team

The US Energy Department has said it refused to provide Trump's team with the names of staffers who previously worked on climate policy. Some of the information requested by Trump reportedly "unsettled" many workers.

While the Department of Energy (DOE) has pledged to cooperate and be forthcoming with the incoming Trump administration, it would "not be providing any individual names to the transition team," an agency spokesman said Tuesday.

The President-elect's transition team last week submitted 74 questions to the DOE concerning its work under outgoing President Barack Obama. However, questions asking for the identities of staffers that worked on climate policy efforts and attended international climate change conferences "left many in our workforce unsettled," spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder said.

DOE officials "respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department," Burnham-Snyder added.

A 'hit list'

Climate policy had become a key focus of the agency under Obama.

One DOE staffer, speaking anonymously, reportedly called the list of questions a "hit list" and accused Donald's Trump team of going after top scientists involved in policy areas that the incoming Republican president had previously slammed. These include the Iran nuclear deal and the internal operations of the national energy labs.

The official also said that questions regarding professional society memberships and websites maintained by staff could raise questions around Trump's commitment to scientific independence, a hallmark of the DOE.

"Our career workforce, including our contractors and employees at our labs, comprise the backbone of DOE and the important work our department does to benefit the American people," Burnham-Snyder said.

Democrats also voiced concern around Trump's list of questions, with some allegedly even decrying it as a modern-day political witch hunt.

Reports: Climate change skeptic Rick Perry to become new DOE head

The DOE's refusal to submit staffers' name coincided with reports that Trump has chosen former Texas Governor Rick Perry to head the Energy Department. That's according to two sources working closely with the transition team.

Perry, a climate change skeptic and oil drilling advocate, visited the incoming President at Trump Tower in New York City on Monday. Perry had previously been a vocal critic of the President-elect during the 2016, calling him a "cancer to conservatism," before eventually endorsing the Republican nominee as the "people's choice."

One of Perry's best-remembered moments was his so-called "Oops moment" during a 2011 Republican presidential candidate debate. For 40 seconds, Perry frantically tried to remember the third of three federal agencies we would shut down if elected, before sheepishly muttering "Oops" after failing to do so.

After highlighting commerce and education, the agency he forgot was the Department of Energy, which he now appears set to run.

Perry's appointment is another indication that Trump will take a friendly stance towards the fossil fuel industry. On Tuesday, Trump named Rex Tillerson, chief executive of US oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp, as secretary of state.

He has also settled on US Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a keen advocate for expanded oil and gas development, as interior secretary, and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pruitt ardently opposed Obama's climate changes measures and even sued the EPA in a bid to dismiss regulations designed to curb greenhouse gas emission, namely from coal-fired power plants.

dm/kl (AP, dpa)

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