Agency dismantling international climate office

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, June 16, 2017

The Department of Energy today confirmed it is shuttering an international climate office to eliminate “unnecessary duplication” but shot back at suggestions it was stepping away from promoting clean energy.

Shaylyn Hynes, a DOE spokeswoman, said the agency has been looking for ways to consolidate duplicative programs, and shuttering the Office of International Climate and Technology was one way to do it.

“Anticipating a smaller FY 2018 budget, the department is looking for ways to consolidate the many duplicative programs that currently exist within DOE,” Hynes said in an email. “This is only one example of many.

“For instance, The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has an International Affairs team, while the International Affairs Office has a renewables team,” Hynes continued. “The Department is looking for ways to eliminate this kind of unnecessary duplication — just like any responsible American business would.”

Hynes said DOE was not closing its Office of International Affairs but instead consolidating those operations into one office.

The New York Times first reported today that DOE was closing its Office of International Climate and Technology.

The closure arrives on the heels of President Trump withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement and the release of a budget that moves to severely cut the budget of DOE programs. The Times, citing current and former DOE employees, reported that 11 staff members within the office were told this month that their positions had been eliminated.

Sources outside the agency confirmed to E&E News that employees within the office had been told it would be closed.

Although DOE is citing a need to avoid duplication, the office’s former leader under the Obama administration in a recent interview suggested the proposed budget cuts and zeroing in on an office with “climate” in its title are unnecessarily vindictive (Climatewire, May 24).

Environmental groups immediately responded.

“Donald Trump, Rick Perry, and the entire Administration have their heads so far in the sand at this point that you cannot even see their toes,” said John Coequyt, director of global climate policy with the Sierra Club. “Willfully ignoring the climate crisis is recklessly and unnecessarily dangerous for families and communities across the country, and it’s clear that Trump will stop at nothing to completely isolate the United States and irreparably damage our reputation with the rest of the world.”

The Times also noted the small office’s role in preparing for the annual Clean Energy Ministerial, which Energy Secretary Rick Perry attended in Beijing earlier this month.

Hynes acknowledged the office closure as laid out by the newspaper but said the United States is not retreating from its promotion of clean energy. Perry, she noted, introduced two new initiatives on clean energy at the ministerial on carbon capture, utilization and storage, and nuclear power.

“He has a proven record of managing under tight budgets and looks forward to working with whatever resources Congress appropriates to accomplish the core agency functions while being respectful to the American taxpayer,” she said.

Reporter Peter Behr contributed.