December 11, 2016

Sidebar: Trump in Transition (v6)

In my most recent Trump in Transition (TiT) post, I talked about the POTUS-elect tapping Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to dismantle, er, I mean, to head the EPA. At about the same time that news came out, there was another bit of news regarding the EPA and what we can expect during the Trump Administration.

As reported by the Washington Post and others, the Celebrity Transition Team is looking to do some data-mining over at EPA - sort of like their version of clean coal, or something:
Donald Trump's transition team has issued a list of 74 questions for the Energy Department, asking agency officials to identify which employees and contractors have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation's carbon output.
Brrrr.... that's a chilling howdy-do, don't you think?

Actually, it looks like there are only 65 questions (one page was included twice in the document) and some of them are logical questions an incoming administration, with limited 'in the weeds' knowledge would ask for, such as:
  • a list of open positions
  • a list of all Presidential employees requiring Senate confirmation
  • a list of reports due to Congress or other external parties in 2017
Nothing too nefarious in that type of question, I don't think. Here are a couple of the ones that garnered attention:
  • Can you provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended any Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon meetings? Can you provide a list of when those meetings were and any materials distributed at those meetings, emails associated with those meetings or material created by Department employees or contractors in anticipation or as a result of those meetings?
  • Can you provide a list of Department employees or contractors who attended any of the Conference of Parties (under the UNFCCC) in the last five years? (Note: the UNFCCC is commonly referred to as the Paris Agreement, something Trump has said the US will withdraw from, not participate in.)
  • Is there a readily available list of any products or technologies that have emerged from DOE  programs or the labs that are currently offered in the market without any subsidy?
  • Which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama's Climate Action Plan?
  • Does the Department have any thoughts on how to reduce the bureaucratic burden for exporting US energy technology, including but not limited to commercial nuclear technology?
There are also questions that raise issues with the reliability and independence of reports coming from the Energy Information Agency (EIA), including these somewhat passive-aggressive ones:
  • EIA is an independent agency within DOE. How has EIA ensured its independence in your data and analysis over the past eight years? In what instances do you think EIA's independence was most challenged?
  • In the Annual Energy Outlook for 2016, EIA assumed the Clean Power Plan (CPP) should be in the reference case despite the fact that the reference case is based on existing laws and regulations. Why did EIA make that assumption, which seems to be atypical of past forecasts? (Note: implementation of the CPP was stayed by the Supreme Court in February 2016)
  • EIA's assessments of levelized costs for renewable technologies do not contain back-up costs for the fossil fuel technologies that are brought on-line to replace the generation when those technologies are down. Is this a true representation of levelized costs?
There other questions seeking info on offshore wind generation, something we know Trump does not like (eagle-killing, ugly, China, monsters, etc.).

There are questions about Yucca Mountain, the nuclear waste repository outside Las Vegas; funding for that project was stopped by the Obama Administration. Now that Harry Reid is out of the Senate, there's opportunity for this issue to be pressed forward.
  • Are there any statutory restrictions to restarting the Yucca Mountain project?
  • Does DOE have a plan to resume the Yucca Mountain license proceedings?
There's more - some of the questions only a Department or Congressional insider, or an energy lobbyist, would understand. But it seems like the transition team is honing in on things that the current administration liked,  that are global in nature, or that are not fossil fuel and nuke friendly. 

Brrr, I say again.