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Department of Energy employees defy Trump, refuse to release names of climate scientists
Former Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to head the Department of Energy, smiles as he leaves Trump Tower in New York Monday. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Department of Energy employees defy Trump, refuse to release names of climate scientists

If one thing has been clear during President-elect Donald Trump's transition, it's that he plans to undo a significant portion of President Barack Obama's regulatory framework regarding climate change. Trump has appointed open climate change skeptics in virtually every position of authority within the federal government whose work touches on climate change, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy.

One hurdle that stands in the way of any wholesale action doing away with many climate change regulations are the opinions of lower-level agency employees who are not appointed by the president. Under administrative law framework, agencies must offer an explanation for any changes in regulatory direction, or they risk having new regulations struck down by the courts. If an agency announces a regulatory course change that is contradicted by the published work of its own scientists, that could very well imperil the new regulations entirely.

Accordingly, Trump's transition team sent a request to current heads at the Department of Energy, asking for the names of department personnel who have been working on climate change issues, along with a list of the professional associations they belonged to. The clear intent of the request was to identify potential problem spots within the agency, and the agency's current leadership balked. According to Reuters:

Energy Department spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder said Tuesday the department will not comply.

"Our career workforce, including our contractors and employees at our labs, comprise the backbone of (the Energy Department) and the important work our department does to benefit the American people," Burnham-Snyder said.

"We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department," he added. "We will be forthcoming with all publicly available information with the transition team. We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team."

He added that the request "left many in our workforce unsettled." . . .

Trump transition officials declined to comment on the memo.

"This feels like the first draft of an eventual political enemies list," a Department of Energy employee, who asked not to be identified because he feared a reprisal by the Trump transition team, had told Reuters.

The department is under no legal obligation to turn these names over to the Trump transition team, but the request previews a likely fight after Trump's inauguration and could present a thorny issue for the confirmation of former Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry to head the agency. Democrats — and some Republicans who are open believers in man-made climate change, such as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — might try to block Perry's confirmation unless he promises not to follow through with identifying these individuals.

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