President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team appears to be compiling a roster of names of Energy Department staff members, including career civil servants, who worked on plans to cut carbon emissions, according to a questionnaire obtained by ABC News.
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Sources at the Department of Energy say the agency received the 74-point memo, which was obtained by ABC News, from the Trump transition team this past Tuesday, Dec. 6. Environmental groups said they fear the questionnaire is an indication of a potential purge of policymakers working to combat climate change.
“It looks like Trump and his administration are planning a political witch hunt which has no place in American government: purging or marginalizing anyone who has worked on the issue of climate change,” John Coequyt, climate policy director at the Sierra Club, an environmental organization, said in a statement. “And that’s at the same time they are looking for ways to eliminate the very scientific infrastructure we need to monitor changes to our planet and its climate. You can’t purge physics from planet earth, and seas will keep rising regardless.”
The questionnaire asks for information on several Department of Energy programs and asks twice for lists of the names of staff members who worked on specific projects. One line item asks for names of any staff or contractors who attended international meetings on climate change run through the United Nations, such as the summit that produced the landmark Paris Agreement last year, signed by 116 countries to cut carbon pollution. A second question in the memo asks for names of personnel who attended domestic interagency meetings focused on the “social cost of carbon.” Those working groups generated metrics and recommendations for the Obama administration to craft new regulations.
Other questions listed, include: “Which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama's Climate Action Plan?” and “Who 'owns' the work on international Clean Energy Ministerial and 'Mission Innovation' [a multinational effort to develop clean technology]?"
In the past, Trump has called climate change a "hoax," created by special interests that negatively affects businesses.
Trump has yet to tap his energy secretary, but possible contenders include Harold Hamm, the chief executive of oil and gas company Continental Resources, as well as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
The targeted survey of staff in a specific policy area -- one on which Trump has been sharply critical of the current administration -- is unusual, according to Jeff Ruch, the executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit that specifically represents and advocates for public government employees who work in energy and the environment.
“Rather than [saying], ‘give a broad overview and how it all fits together,’ they’re saying, ‘give us all the people that are working on this hot-button issue,” Ruch said.
The Trump transition team did not immediately reply to requests for comment on this story.
“This very much feels like a preview of coming attractions,” a current DOE employee told ABC News on the condition of anonymity. “If there was anybody who didn’t take Trump at his word that he was going to drain the swamp, they should now, except that he is going to drown normal civil servants under this wave of inquisition too.”