Perry: ‘I’m not going anywhere’

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Energy Secretary Rick Perry addressed rumors today about him leaving the Department of Energy for another Cabinet post.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during a hearing on DOE’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget. “It’s an honor to serve as the secretary of Energy.”

Perry and his allies had pooh-poohed the notion that he was leaving for the Department of Veterans Affairs, but he had not testified on the matter directly before the committee. Earlier he called reports of a move to Veterans Affairs “fake news.”

Perry is expected to meet at the White House later today with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to a DOE official.

Perry also told lawmakers he was “very displeased” that budget documents had not been released in a timely fashion to the committee. The issue came up last week when House appropriators said they had never seen anything like this year’s delays.

“This is not how I operate,” Perry said. He made a commitment to lawmakers to speed up the process.

Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and other committee members expressed concerns about proposed cuts to DOE’s science and applied energy programs, including the elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E.

“While we should always be looking for places to cut the budget, we should also recognize that innovation is critical to our nation’s energy future,” Murkowski said. “We need to focus on maintaining our global leadership in science, research and development.”

Cantwell called proposed funding reductions at DOE for clean energy research “devastating,” considering China’s increased focus on energy technology developments.

President Trump’s $30.6 billion request for DOE would eliminate DOE’s loan guarantee program and would cut programs at several applied energy offices by more than 25 percent.

Funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) — which supports research on solar, wind and advanced vehicle technologies — would fall by more than half under the White House plan, from more than $2 billion currently to $696 million.

When asked repeatedly about the impact of budget cuts, Perry said the reduction of a specific line item doesn’t mean that there are worse results. That echoed his comments to House appropriators, whom he told that many renewable programs have already met their goals in justifying cuts.

“Are we going to be able to fund every line item? Probably not,” he said. But that doesn’t mean that the results out of the national labs and from energy programs “are any less consequential,” he said.

To Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), he said the department’s support for carbon capture, utilization and storage research is “very strong” despite steep cuts for the technology in fossil energy’s budget.

On ARPA-E, Perry said he has looked at the results of the program and found some “very, very positive things.” If Congress were to fund it, it would be operated in a way that senators would be pleased with, he said.

Several senators quizzed Perry on plans to kill the loan program, which supports renewable, fossil and nuclear projects. The office has been blasted by conservatives, but its proposed elimination has been called “shameful” by supporters (Greenwire, Aug. 7, 2017). Perry noted that billions of dollars have “already been appropriated.”

If Congress moves forward with funding on loan guarantees, the office will operate with transparency and oversight, he said.

Murkowski said that while many feel the loan office needs some “reforms,” there’s funding left in it that could be used to leverage some infrastructure.

Another focus was the administration’s plans to start a new cybersecurity office from EERE. Cantwell pressed Perry on whether there would be a full cybersecurity risk assessment, which she said was needed.

“I think that’s going on as we speak,” Perry said, saying three areas within DOE were having conversations on the issue.