Senate poised to confirm Trump picks for Energy, Interior this week

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Senate will soon vote on Rep. Ryan Zinke's (R-MT) nomination to lead the Department of Interior, after lawmakers voted 67-31 to limit debate. Senators are also expected to vote on the nomination of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy.
  • While Democrats have delayed voting on the nominees, both are expected to be confirmed. A vote on Zinke could come as early as Wednesday morning, according to Politico, with Perry's confirmation likely following by the end of the week. 
  • Once Perry is installed at DOE, Energywire reports Brian McCormack, vice president of political and external affairs at the Edison Electric Institute, will be brought on board as the new chief of staff. EEI is the trade group for U.S. investor-owned utilities. 

Dive Insight:

It is a busy week in Washington, with Trump poised to give his first address to Congress, an early budget from the White House sketching massive cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, and more of the President's cabinet nominees moving toward a vote.

Additionally, the energy sector is closely watching the White House for executive orders to rescind the Clean Power Plan and Waters of the U.S. rule, which could be the first concrete examples of energy-related policies Trump intends to take. 

Trump's order to review the WOTUS rule is expected Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, and will be a separate from his anticipated revocation of the Clean Power Plan, which could happen later this week. 

But to make policy beyond executive orders, Trump needs his cabinet confirmed. And so far, Democrats have been moving as slowly as possible. Both Perry and Zinke's nominations received committee approval in January.

At Interior, Zinke would run an agency that oversees federal lands containing extensive energy reserves. The nominee has called for an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy, including increasing fossil fuel production, but is opposed to selling federal lands, a common GOP priority.  

"I can guarantee you it is better to produce energy domestically under reasonable regulation than overseas with no regulation," Zinke said. 

After Zinke's vote, Politico reports Perry is likely to be confirmed to lead DOE by the end of the week. Though he once called for the agency to be shut down, Perry said in his confirmation hearing that he would attempt to protect existing clean energy and climate programs at the agency, though he would not commit to any initiatives by name. 

Once Perry is in place, his first hire will reportedly be a seasoned power sector veteran — EEI's Brian McCormack. Energywire described the former Bush administration official as "a well-connected political consultant for the nation's for-profit power companies." 

The close relationships between Trump's administration and the energy industry have been on display recently. Pruitt was confirmed the day after an Oklahoma judge ordered the release of more than 3,000 documents detailing his cooperation with fossil energy companies in opposing Obama administration environmental regulations. 

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Filed Under: Regulation & Policy
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