President-elect Trump made an array of energy-related campaign promises, and elevated several of those promises to priorities for his First 100 Days in office. Many of the energy related priorities will require action by multiple Federal agencies, including the Department of Energy (DOE). The Trump transition team has nominated Rick Perry for secretary of the DOE. Among the energy-related priorities found in Trump’s First 100 Days agenda, two key policy items may fall within the purview of a DOE led by Perry, including:
- Lifting existing restrictions on the production of energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas, and clean coal and
- Allowing energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward.
The DOE is responsible for, among other things, issuing presidential permits for energy projects that cross the U.S.’s borders with Canada and Mexico, authorizing the export/import of energy products, and conducting environmental review for certain energy projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).
Energy Infrastructure Opportunities
In addition to these first 100 Days priorities, president-elect Trump has also advocated for improving infrastructure in the United States. Trump has not proposed specific infrastructure policies, but electric transmission infrastructure is a core national asset and as such is a prime candidate for Federal investment. Under Rick Perry, the DOE will have the authority to permit cross border transmission lines and increase Federal transmission research at the DOE’s national laboratories. This in turn could create jobs for electric line workers, construction contractors, and engineers, and it could spur an increase in overall electric supply in the United States.
Rick Perry’s Qualifications
Rick Perry was governor of Texas for three terms where he maintained or advanced policies advantageous to the coal, natural gas, oil, wind, and electric transmission industries. During Perry’s time as governor, wind generation in the state consistently increased, Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZs) were established, and a major build-out of CREZ transmission lines provided renewable generation access to competitive electric markets.
Perry is currently on the board of directors for two oil and gas companies: Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners. Last month, Sunoco Logistics Partners announced its acquisition of Energy Transfer Partners. Perry also sits on the board of Celtex Therapeutics Corp., a stem cell banking and stem cell infusion company. Rick Perry received his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and then entered the U.S. Air Force. He was a member of the Texas House of Representatives, held a position as commissioner of agriculture in Texas, and became lieutenant governor of Texas prior to becoming the state’s governor.
What is Next?
Once the name of a nominee is submitted for a cabinet-level position, the Senate committees with jurisdiction over the position do a background investigation on the nominee. For the DOE Secretary, the relevant committee is the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
After the appropriate investigation, the relevant committee or committees conduct a nomination hearing. At this hearing, the nominee and various stakeholders have the opportunity to testify. The committee then advances the individual’s nomination by a majority vote and forwards the nomination to the full Senate body for approval.
The Senate conducts a floor debate on the nomination and ultimately takes a final vote as to whether or not to confirm the nominee by a majority vote on the Senate floor. Under the current Senate rules, cabinet-level nominations are not subject to filibuster and thus 60 votes are not needed to end debate; only a simple majority is needed to confirm the nomination.