Perry sets out climate beliefs to Senate committee

20 January 2017

Rick Perry, nominated to be US Energy Secretary by President-elect Donald Trump, said yesterday he believes "some" climate change is manmade and promised to protect the Department of Energy's (DOE) scientific research activities into the issue. He told a Senate committee he regretted calling for the department's abolition five years ago and said he advocated all energy options for the USA's 21st century energy policy.

Perry, a former governor of Texas, made his comments to the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources' hearing to consider his nomination. Perry said he would, if confirmed, "advocate and promote American energy in all forms". He said: "I am committed to helping provide stable, reliable, affordable, and secure sources of American energy," adding that an "American first energy strategy" is important "to create jobs and grow the economy."

Perry ran for the US presidency in 2012, when he said that if elected he would eliminate the DOE. In her opening statement to the hearing, Senator Maria Cantwell congratulated Perry on his nomination but reminded him of his past views on a department whose "wide-ranging missions impact almost every aspect of our lives". She and many of her colleagues were "deeply concerned by some of the things Governor Perry has said in the past about climate science".

In response, Perry said he had learned "a great deal about the important work" being carried out by the DOE. "My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the [DOE] do not reflect my current thinking," he said. "In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department… I regret recommending its elimination. If confirmed, I will enter this role excited and passionate about advancing the core missions of the DOE, and drawing greater attention to the vital role played by the agency and the hard working men and women who dedicate themselves in pursuit of these missions," he said.

"I believe the climate is changing," he said. "I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by manmade activity. The question is how do we address it in a thoughtful way that doesn't compromise economic growth, the affordability of energy, or American jobs." He then outlined measures taken in Texas during his governorship to reduce carbon emissions through an "all of the above" energy strategy that saw the state take a national lead in wind energy development. "When it comes to climate change, I am committed to making decisions based on sound science and that also take into account the economic impact," he said.

He said he was a "major proponent" of US leadership in scientific inquiry, and supported academic and government research missions "even when it will not yield benefits for a generation."

Waste aware

Perry said he understood, and was committed to, the DOE's environmental cleanup role and specifically dealing with "nuclear waste", pointing to the experiences of his home state.

Texas hosts the Texas Compact Facility, operated by Waste Control Specialists, which is authorised to dispose of all classes of low-level radioactive waste materials considered suitable for near-surface burial. Last year the company, in partnership with Areva and NAC International, submitted an application for a licence to construct and operate a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility for used nuclear fuel in the state.

"I have experience in dealing with the difficult challenges of transporting and storing low-level waste in my home state of Texas. I know this is a daunting task at the federal level, with 35 states temporarily housing waste from various nuclear programs. I look forward to working with the members of this committee to address the concerns many of you are hearing back home about nuclear waste facilities," Perry told the committee.

Trump, who is to be inaugurated as President today, announced Perry as his preferred nominee for energy secretary in December. Nominees must be approved by Senate. The USA's current energy secretary, Ernest Moniz, is the former Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of its Energy Initiative and its Laboratory for Energy and the Environment.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News