I’m Adam Sachs, a partner in Husch Blackwell’s energy practice and a registered DC lobbyist. I will be joined in these semi-regular blog posts by my colleague and longtime Washington lawyer, Bob Horn. Bob served in the Ford administration, ran Detroit Edison’s federal affairs operations, co-founded the Republican National Lawyers Association, and most recently served as a member of the Trump transition team. I have extensive Capitol Hill experience, having served in senior policy and legal positions since the mid-1980’s. My most recent Hill gig was serving as committee counsel to now assistant Democratic leader James Clyburn of South Carolina.
Our regular posts will be your go-to source for information regarding energy policy goings-on in our nation’s capitol. We will provide an unvarnished give-and-take between a couple of policy people who take pride in working together from different sides of the aisle. Our focus will be on energy policy, though please forgive us if we stray from that topic at times.
DOE and EPA Nominees
Because presidential appointees need 51 votes for confirmation, both Rick Perry (DOE) and Scott Pruitt (EPA) will likely be confirmed. Despite Governor Perry’s more limited national experience as chief executive of an oil and gas producing state, he will have an easier time getting through the Senate than Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. Philosophically, Governor Perry’s views on energy policy are consistent with the views advocated by President Trump, and he will be largely deferential to the wishes of the new president in almost all regards. Like many of his predecessors, he will rely on his undersecretaries to do the business of managing our nations’ nuclear arsenal.
Scott Pruitt, in conjunction with many of his attorney general colleagues, has been involved in suing the EPA on matters related to EPA policies and regulations and will be among those leading the deregulation charge in the president’s leadership team. His selection has predictably riled the Democratic base on the left. This one is good news for those in the energy industry who would like to get government off their backs. The Obama administration’s “Clean Power Plan” and “Waters of the U.S.” regulations will be among the first to be reevaluated by the Trump team, and neither of us would be surprised to see initial efforts to undo these regs during the first few weeks of the administration.
What About Climate Change?
This is where Trump’s campaign rhetoric may not square with his personal views or with the practical limitations of simply “withdrawing” from a formal international agreement.
So far Trump’s selections for Secretary of State, Energy, Interior and even Scott Pruitt and EPA have admitted that climate change is real and likely man-made. That hasn’t stopped the new White House from immediately taking down its web page on climate change as part of their overall review of the Obama administration’s energy and environmental policy initiatives. However, Adam’s guess is that the new administration will attempt to tap dance around this issue for a while, and is likely to initiate side bar discussions to distance itself from formal climate change meetings. For at least the first 100 days, it is very unlikely the Trump administration will do anything which creates the appearance that the U.S. is a part of a U.N.-sponsored working group. The world community would push back strongly against an outright U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement. Action in this area will be determined by the Trump administration’s view of how any decision may ultimately affect American jobs.