President-elect Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he would choose former Texas governor Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy, calling him "one of the most successful governors in modern history" in a release from Trump Tower in New York.
"It is a tremendous honor to be selected to serve as Secretary of Energy by President-elect Trump," Governor Perry said, according to the Associated Press. "I am deeply humbled by his trust in me."
The move seems to augur a sea change at the department, putting a figure with close ties to the oil industry – and outspoken antipathy toward the agency itself, having pledged to dissolve it during a 2012 run for president – in a post with unparalleled influence over energy investment policies.
Among the department’s responsibilities is the management of 17 labs dedicated to research and innovation for the energy sector, and the maintenance and security of nuclear weapons.
As a presidential candidate, Perry was a favorite of the Texas energy industry, which contributed substantial funding to power his campaigns. A 2015 presidential financial disclosure indicates that a considerable amount of his wealth has come from either energy investments or consulting work for a Texas firm that sells heavy machinery for oil exploration, according to the AP. And not long after stepping down as Texas governor in 2015, Perry took on the role of board director at two oil companies, Energy Transfer Partners LP and Sunoco Logistics Partners LP – the joint developers of the Dakota Access Pipeline project.
That pipeline, the object of demonstrations from indigenous and environmentalist groups, was put on hold this month after the Army Corps of Engineers said it would delay granting an easement to developers for a final stretch of the pipeline running under a Missouri River reservoir.
Demonstrators’ celebrations over that delay were tempered by caution, The Christian Science Monitor noted this month:
According to some, the situation would be “over” once ETP removed their drilling equipment from the edge of the Missouri River, where it sits awaiting approval. In November, the company sought permission from a federal court to disregard the Army Corps of Engineers and finish the work themselves; no ruling has yet been given.
Mr. Perry would not have the authority to unilaterally push it through, as the Army Corps is responsible for granting easements. But the Energy Department and other departments that have played a supporting role will likely be more favorable to developers, as the Trump administration has said it plans to approve the project.
The oil and natural gas industries look to be the beneficiaries of the incoming administration, even more so than coal, noted the Monitor’s Mark Trumbull on Tuesday:
So far, the cabinet picks of Donald Trump send a pretty unequivocal signal in support of fossil fuels, but with an interesting nuance: The emphasis looks to be more on oil and natural gas than on coal.
The cabinet picks, by themselves, don't mean the nation's retrenching coal industry will get a cold shoulder when Mr. Trump takes office in January. But so far, a president-elect who pointedly curried favor with coal communities during the election campaign isn't sending many signals of hope toward miners and their industry.
Instead, oil and gas look like they're getting most of the love.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.