- The U.S. Senate has confirmed former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) to head the Department of Energy, where he will oversee the nation's nuclear weapons program as well as research into clean energy and other advanced technologies.
- Perry's nomination was approved 62-37, with nine Democrats voting in favor.
- Perry, who once proposed eliminating DOE as a presidential candidate, told senators in his confirmation hearing that he would seek to preserve energy research funding and climate change programs at the department, but stopped short of committing to specific offices and initiatives.
The U.S. Senate has confirmed Perry as Secretary of Energy, rounding out a trio of Trump appointees that will directly influence the electric power sector.
Last month, senators approved the nomination Scott Pruitt to helm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and yesterday confirmed Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) for the Department of Interior.
Pruitt was by far the most controversial pick; the former attorney general of Oklahoma was confirmed 52-46 while Zinke went through at 68-31, picking up more than a dozen Democratic votes and support from some conservation groups.
While his nomination was never seriously in jeopardy, Trump's choice of the former Texas governor to head DOE raised some eyebrows in the energy sector, as he once famously forgot a pledge to eliminate the department during a presidential debate, sinking his 2012 campaign.
In his confirmation hearing, Perry said he regretted that stance and told lawmakers he would defend the DOE's mission, including agency programs for renewables, fossil fuels, and advanced nuclear energy, as well as basic and applied research and development.
"I will be an advocate. I will be in the room advocating for these types of things," Perry said. "I'm not going to tell you I'll be there 1000% successful in that, but I can assure you and the people who know me ... know my commitment to making sound science, economic science, connected together."
Perry stopped short, however, of pledging to defend any specific offices or initiatives at DOE. The Hill previously reported the Trump transition team is working on a budget proposal that would roll back nuclear and advanced computing research to 2008 levels and eliminate DOE departments focused on electricity, efficiency and renewables, and fossil fuels.
Perry, like other Trump nominees, told lawmakers that he believes the climate is changing, but broke with mainstream science by claiming there is still substantial debate over the causes. He declined to say whether he believes climate change demands the transformation of the energy sector, calling the issue an "academic discussion."
Perry will assume his position after a decade of governing Texas, the nation's largest oil and gas producer and leader in wind energy. Power sector stakeholders there gave his tenure mixed reviews, with some remembering an engaged, pro-business leader and others worrying about a "pay-to-play" future at DOE.
“I give him some credit for not taking action against the development of wind and transmission,” said Karl Rabago, who was a Texas utility executive and regulator during Perry's governorship. “But he also was a vocal champion of coal expansion.”