- Secretary of Energy Rick Perry yesterday testified before the Senate Committee on Appropriations in the second of three hearings where he is scheduled to appear this week. Questioning focused on the White House's proposed cuts to research and energy efficiency, and the development of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site in Nevada.
- Meanwhile, Axios reported the release of the widely-anticipated and controversial baseload review study is delayed until July, with a draft due to Perry by the beginning of the month.
- On Tuesday, Perry testified before the House Appropriations Committee and was posed similar questions. This morning he will appear before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
It's been a long week for Secretary Perry. He kicked off Monday with an appearance on CNBC's “Squawk Box," where he denied humans are the primary cause of climate change. Now he faces scrutiny over budget cuts that he told lawmakers were already in the works when he came onboard the Trump administration in March. In addition to the questioning, the controversial baseload review study's release is delayed.
"The Grid Study is nearing completion and a draft will be submitted to Secretary Perry in early July. He will review its findings, ensure the questions he has posed have been answered and it will be publicly released shortly thereafter," DOE spokesperson Shaylyn Hynes told Axios.
On Tuesday, Perry told the Subcommittee on Energy and Water that the budget reflects "difficult choices," but he did not appear to convince any Democrats. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), the ranking member on the subcommittee, charged that the White House proposed budget "cedes leadership to China ... This is the sector inventing our future."
Wednesday's hearing had a more amicable tone, but was not short on pointed questions. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told Perry "I want the United States to be a global leader in offshore wind."
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), also added his support for wind power, calling it a "powerful driver of economic development" in rural counties. And he was highly critical of a proposal to privatize the Bonneville Power Administration. "Selling Bonneville would be a huge mistake," he said.
Under the White House's proposed budget, the overall Department of Energy budget would be reduced by just 6%, but a shift in funding from research to nuclear security would mean double-digit cuts to departments focused on advanced energy research.
The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see a 69% budget cut compared with 2016 levels; the Office of Fossil Energy budget would be reduced 44%; the Office of Nuclear Energy budget would decline by nearly 30%.
Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz weighed in on Wednesday, predicting the budget to be a "nonstarter."
Pointing out that Perry is often on record as an advocate for scientific research and development, Moniz said there is "no credible way" to argue that the budget would strengthen energy R&D. The budget cuts would slash thousands of jobs at the United States' national laboratories.
Perry, often referring to his time as governor of Texas, assured lawmakers in both hearings this week that the budget will likely undergo significant changes before being finalized. On Tuesday, he acknowledged "this is the first step in a long process ... budgets don't always come back to them the way they started."
At one point yesterday, asked to explain how he identified which programs were to be cut, Perry said the budget had already been completed when he joined the Trump Administration in March. "My job is just to robustly defend it," he said.
Later, Perry sounded almost apologetic when he told the subcommittee, "we've got some work to do on this budget. I know that."