Trump’s agency teams so far

Source: Robin Bravender, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, November 23, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team continues to roll out members of its so-called landing teams, staffers charged with orchestrating agency handoffs to the incoming administration.

For top energy and environmental posts, the list includes staunch critics of the Obama administration’s environmental policies, energy industry advocates and Republican aides from Capitol Hill.

More names are expected to be announced as the Trump team fills out its roster. Some of the team members have already sparked an uproar among Trump’s critics, and former government officials are wary about some team leaders’ lack of experience working inside the agencies where they will be shepherding the transition.

Trump is continuing to meet with possible picks for his administration in New York today — including potential Interior Department contender Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) — ahead of his planned departure this afternoon to Mar-a-Lago, his club in Palm Beach, Fla. Yesterday, he released a video outlining his policy plan for his first 100 days in office.

Here’s a look at some of the names announced so far for landing team members who could play big roles in shaping energy and environmental policies for the incoming Trump administration:

U.S. EPA

  • Myron Ebell, a well-known climate change skeptic and director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Energy Department

  • Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, a former lobbyist for Koch Industries and a former Republican congressional aide.

Interior Department

  • Doug Domenech, director of the Fueling Freedom Project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, secretary of natural resources in Virginia under then-Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and an Interior official during the George W. Bush administration.

Transportation

  • Nancy Butler, former vice president of government and federal relations at AECOM and director of communications and external affairs at the Department of Transportation from 1985 to 1993.

Agriculture

  • Joel Leftwich, staff director on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee; former senior director of public policy and government affairs at PepsiCo; and a congressional liaison at the Department of Agriculture from 2004 until 2005.

Office of Management and Budget

  • Dan Kowalski, a staffer on the Senate Budget Committee since 2012 and formerly a consultant to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
  • Linda Springer, former executive director in the government and public sector practice at Ernst & Young LLP, former Office of Personnel Management director during the Bush administration and former controller at OMB.

Justice Department

  • Ronald Tenpas, an attorney at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and a former top DOJ environmental attorney who is involved in the litigation challenging the Clean Power Plan (see related story).

State Department

  • Steven Groves of the Heritage Foundation, a critic of the Paris Agreement on climate change signed by the Obama administration (see related story).

Commerce Department

  • David Bohigian, managing director of Pluribus Ventures; former managing director at E2 Capital Partners, which developed financing models for energy efficiency projects; and a former Commerce assistant secretary during the Bush administration, where he “led the administration’s efforts on international deployment on clean energy technologies,” according to his LinkedIn page.

Disadvantage for some team members?

Former Obama transition officials are wary of Trump transition team members’ lack of experience in the agencies where they will be dispatched.

Several of those team members — including team leaders for EPA and DOE — have never worked in the agencies where they will be shepherding the transition. That could be a problem, according to former officials who worked inside those agencies and worked on the Obama transition in 2008.

“I think it puts them at a disadvantage going in, and they’ve already complicated their lives by having confusion about just who was going to be coming in,” said Elgie Holstein of the Environmental Defense Fund, who helped lead the 2008 DOE transition.

Those who led the DOE transition staff in 2008 had experience covering “everything from policy to human resources and … the management of the secretary’s office,” he said. Holstein had previously been DOE chief of staff.

“We had a really good feel for the department and its people,” he said. “It helped enormously to have those backgrounds because we also had pre-existing relationships with so many of the career staff.”

DOE in particular is a big agency “with a lot of moving parts,” said Jeff Navin, former DOE chief of staff during the Obama administration.

“While it’s always sort of tempting and sexy to look at what broad policy changes we’re going to implement through the course of the administration, the stuff that will get you in the most trouble at DOE is failing” to manage programs like nuclear waste management, he said.

The Trump team is going to be “at a disadvantage” unless it fills out its team with people who “know where the bodies are buried” and who “can tell you what the potential problem spots can be,” Navin added.

Someone familiar with Pyle, who is heading the DOE transition team, said his resume makes him well-suited for the job.

“His extensive experience in the energy space makes him qualified for the role,” this person said. “If anything, never having worked for DOE is a plus because he’s not entering the role with any preconceived notions or a business-as-usual attitude. Just as important, he’s putting together a great team of experts to help guide and inform the transition process.”

Robert Sussman, who helped lead the EPA transition team for Obama, said Ebell might have a tough time at that agency, having never worked there.

“From what I’ve seen, Myron Ebell has been functioning in the policy world at a pretty high level of generality, and a lot of what he has done is to debate the science of climate change and to engage in a big-picture sense on the policy options,” Sussman said.

“I don’t know the man, but I wonder whether he’s got a very secure grasp of all of the laws that EPA implements and the way the programs carry out those laws and specifically the various rules that the Obama administration has issued and is working on.”

Former agency officials added that the career staff at these agencies can help bring the transition team up to speed and will likely be willing to help, despite concerns among some federal staffers about the Trump team’s policy agenda.

“The top management of the agency has made it clear that they want the transition to be productive and has instructed the staff to be cooperative and forthcoming. And so I think the EPA staff are professionals, and they will do that,” Sussman added.

“They certainly have plenty of fears and concerns about what’s coming next here, but I think the Obama administration is committed to a very professional transition.”

Trump’s first 100 days

Trump released a video last night describing his policy plans for his first 100 days in office.

It included broad pledges to act on energy by rolling back Obama administration regulations and slashing federal rules.

“On energy, I will cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy — including shale energy and clean coal — creating many millions of high-paying jobs. That’s what we want; that’s what we’ve been waiting for,” Trump said.

As for federal regulations, he said, “I will formulate a rule which says that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated; it’s so important.”

Environmentalists were quick to criticize Trump’s plans.

Greenpeace USA spokeswoman Cassady Craighill issued a statement saying Trump’s policies “would put America 100 days further behind where we need to be to address climate change and 100 days closer to the planetary tipping point.” She added, “These campaign promises from Trump have nothing to do with the American people, but they have everything to do with the wallets of his billionaire business buddies who are now tripping over themselves for a spot in the Trump cabinet.”