Oil billionaire considered to lead Energy Department
WASHINGTON — An oil billionaire, a North Dakota lawmaker and a former Bush administration official are being considered to run Donald Trump’s Energy Department, according to transition planning documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The documents, which are being closely scrutinized by energy lobbyists in Washington, also outline early policy priorities for a Trump administration. Topping the list is repealing the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration effort to limit carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. Implementation is currently on hold awaiting a court ruling.
Those under consideration for energy secretary include Harold Hamm, an Oklahoma oil tycoon and leading proponent of fracking, and North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer, an early Trump supporter from a major oil drilling state. Venture capitalist Robert Grady, who worked in President George H.W. Bush’s administration, is listed as a contender to lead both the Energy and Interior Departments.
It’s unclear whether the list is exhaustive or has been reviewed by Trump. The Republican is in the early stages of setting up his administration, having named only his White House chief of staff and chief strategist thus far.
The Trump to-do list targets recent Obama administration efforts to reduce air and water pollution that have been opposed by Republicans and industries that profit from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, including the “waters of the United States” rule and ozone regulations.
Trump calls climate change a “hoax” perpetrated by China and others and has said he will rescind the Clean Power Plan — the linchpin of President Barack Obama’s strategy to fight climate change.
A coalition of conservative states has challenged the Clean Power Plan and also has challenged an EPA rule that expanded the definition of waters protected under the Clean Water Act to smaller non-navigable waters and seasonal tributaries.
The Obama administration says the rule would safeguard drinking water for 117 million people, but Republicans and some Democrats representing rural areas say the regulations are costly, confusing and amount to a government power grab. Federal courts have put the rules on hold as judges review lawsuits.
On his campaign website, Trump called for rescinding “all job-destroying Obama executive actions” and has vowed to unleash an American energy revolution, allowing unfettered production of oil, coal and natural gas. He would sharply increase oil and gas drilling on federal lands and open up offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean and other areas where it is blocked.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said last week he has asked Trump to move quickly to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, which Obama rejected last year.
Trump highlighted the stalled Keystone project during a late October campaign swing through Florida, saying: “We’re going to approve energy infrastructure projects like the Keystone pipeline and many more.” He listed the project among his top priorities for the first 100 days of his administration, saying it could provide “a lot of jobs, a lot of good things.”
In addition to repealing the power plant rules, the transition document also says Trump’s energy team is considering modifications to Obama’s ozone rule, which is meant to reduce smog.
Also on the chopping block are Obama administration regulations intended to limit harmful emissions and chemical-laden waste water from hydraulic fracturing operations at oil and gas wells.
AP writers Matthew Daly and Michael Biesecker contributed to this report.