One of President-elect Donald Trump's most pressing current tasks is selecting who will serve in his new administration, especially his transition team and cabinet, though there are over 4,000 political appointees to hire for federal jobs in all.
Much of the mainstream media attention so far has centered around Trump's choices of Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff and former Breitbart News CEO Steve Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor. Congressional Democrats have called for Bannon to be banned from the White House, citing his personal bigotry and the bigotry often on display on Breitbart.com. Meanwhile, Bannon's hire was praised by the American Nazi Party and KKK.
Yet, perhaps just as troubling is the army of climate change deniers and fossil fuel industry lobbyists helping to pick or court a spot on Trump's future climate and energy team.
During the campaign cycle, DeSmog highlighted several of these people, including Kathleen Hartnett White, Mike Catanzaro, Myron Ebell and Harold Hamm, as well as post-campaign for former head of Trump's Department of Energy transition team, Mike McKenna and his replacement Thomas Pyle.
For starters, the “Drain the Swamp” plan calls for lobbyists on the Trump transition team to deregister as lobbyists, something Catanzaro and McKenna — both lobbyists for Koch Industries — have chosen not to do.
Yet everyone else who remains on Trump's likely climate and energy list, or is helping pick those positions, has ties to corporate lobbying, corporate leadership, or corporate-funded think tanks. This is despite the fact Trump ran on an explicit campaign promise to “drain the swamp” of lobbyist influence and corporate dominance of politics in Washington, D.C.
So, who are these people under the most serious consideration to control the fate of environment and energy agencies in the Trump administration? And who is helping select those who will now work inside of the “swamp”? What jobs could they potentially fill or are they helping to fill? What are their backgrounds?
Here's a primer on ten of them.
1) Myron Ebell. Donald Trump has chosen outspoken climate change denier Myron Ebell of the Koch Industries-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) to oversee his U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team. Ebell, who is not a scientist, chairs the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group of organizations which “question global warming alarmism and oppose energy rationing policies.”
He has encouraged the Senate to vote to pull the U.S. out of its international climate commitments including the Paris Agreement. Ebell has celebrated his poor track record and low credibility ratings, as seen in a biography submitted before his testimony in Congress that noted he and three of his CEI colleagues were featured in “A Field Guide to Climate Criminals” distributed by Greenpeace at the UN climate meeting in Montreal in December 2005.
2) Jeff Holmstead. An attorney for the film Bracewell, Holmstead has served as a key anti-regulatory advocate on behalf of coal and utility industry clients and is in the running to head the EPA. Perhaps in anticipation of landing a job in the Trump administration, Holmstead has deregistered as a lobbyist, per the “drain the swamp” rules.
Before deregistering as a lobbyist, Holmstead's clients included the likes of Ameren, Arch Coal, DTE Energy, Duke Energy, Energy Future Holdings, and Southern Company. Holmstead began his political career as the associate counsel to former President George H.W. Bush. After passing through the government-industry revolving door during the Bill Clinton White House years, Holmstead served as Assistant Administrator of the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation under President George W. Bush.
At that point, “he played a key role in the George W. Bush administration's efforts to roll back clean air and climate change protections,” according to PolluterWatch. Read the Jeffrey Holmstead PolluterWatch profile for a comprehensive look at his career.
3) Thomas Pyle. Pyle, President of the Koch-funded Institute for Energy Research (IER) and its advocacy arm, the American Energy Alliance (AEA), was picked by President-elect Trump to lead the transition team for the Department of Energy upon the departure of McKenna. He is also linked to the new Koch-funded front group, Fueling US Forward, which DeSmog has reported on KochVsClean.com.
Before joining IER and AEA, Pyle founded and ran Pyle Consulting, Inc., a lobbying and public relations firm. As a lobbyist, Tom Pyle lobbied on behalf of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers precursor, the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, and for Koch Industries.
4) Kathleen Hartnett White. White is the director of the Armstrong Center for Energy & the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a group funded by ExxonMobil, the Koch network, and the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. A registered lobbyist in Texas, she directs the TPPF's “Fueling Freedom” project, which seeks to “explain the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels” while “building a multi-state coalition to push back against the EPA’s unconstitutional efforts to take over the electric power sector by regulating CO2 via the Clean Power Plan.” The project further seeks to “end the regulation of CO2 as a pollutant.”
White recently published a book titled Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy and has referred to the EPA as the “imperial EPA.” She is under consideration as either the head of the EPA or the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Before working at TPPF, White worked as chairman and commissioner of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Prior to 2001, she served as then-Governor George W. Bush's appointee to the Texas Water Development Board. Texas environmentalists assert White would be a “disaster” as EPA chief.
5) Harold Hamm. A hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) oil baron, as well as founder and CEO of Continental Resources, Hamm is a leading candidate for U.S. Secretary of Energy. Politico dubbed Hamm as Trump's “energy whisperer.” Hamm was formerly a big pusher of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, creating a lobbying coalition which sought to have a Bakken Shale oil “on-ramp” portion added to the northern leg of the controversial pipeline.
As DeSmog first reported, Continental Resources has a stake in the transport of oil through the Dakota Access pipeline, currently the target of months-long demonstrations led by Native Americans in North Dakota. A member of Trump's Presidential Inaugural Committee, Hamm spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio, and also served as energy adviser for Mitt Romney's 2012 Republican presidential campaign.
Reuters reported Trump presidential campaign energy adviser U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) as saying Hamm “has the right of first refusal” for the Energy Secretary spot. It appears Hamm has bowed out of the running, though, telling CNBC he already had a full-time job running Continental Resources and suggesting Cramer is the right guy for the job.
6) Heidi Heitkamp. A Democratic U.S. Senator from North Dakota, Heitkamp will meet with Pence and Trump to discuss the Energy Secretary and Interior Secretary openings in a meeting requested by Trump. Heitkamp is an outspoken supporter of fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as a cautious supporter of the Dakota Access pipeline, both of which Trump has come out in support of. She is also a major coal supporter.
Politico described her as someone who “takes [the] Palin approach on energy.”
“I think ‘Drill, Baby Drill’ is the way we need to do it,” Heitkamp has said. “This is an area where I have vehemently disagreed with the [Obama] administration. They’ve walked away from coal. They’re hostile to oil.” She has dismissed concerns about fracking as “junk science.” Throughout her Senate career, Heitkamp has received $257,379 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry and $121,900 from the electricity utility industries.
7) Joe Manchin. A Democratic U.S. Senator from West Virginia, Manchin is best known as an outspoken supporter of the coal industry and he is under consideration as a potential Energy Secretary. He “is being considered to show the coal people how serious Trump is about coal,” a source told Politico. Throughout his Senate career, Manchin has received $685,698 from the coal mining industry, $444,450 from the electric utilities industry and another $284,150 from the oil and gas industry.
Having bashed President Barack Obama for waging a purported “war on coal,” Manchin said in a 2013 press release, “It is only common sense to use all our domestic resources, and that includes our coal.”
8) Mary Fallin. The Republican governor of Oklahoma and a vice chair on Trump's transition team, Fallin resides in a governor's mansion sharing a land plot with the shadow lobbying group, Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), which she has twice headed up. The Oklahoma State Capitol has an oil derrick on the front lawn and its dome was funded by oil companies such as ConocoPhillips.
Fallin, who met with Trump at Trump Tower in New York City for a job interview, is considered a top prospect to head the U.S. Department of Interior. An avid supporter of fracking and opponent of localities having any say over the process, Fallin formerly denied a connection between fracking waste injection wells and earthquakes which have enveloped the Sooner State. Also a speaker at the 2016 RNC in Cleveland, Fallin introduced an “Oilfield Prayer Day” resolution in 2016 and was a major recipient of oil and gas industry campaign contributions both as Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate and U.S. House of Representatives candidate.
9) Forrest Lucas. The founder and CEO of petroleum products company Lucas Oil and namesake of the Indianapolis Colts' Lucas Oil Stadium, Lucas has also been floated as a potential Secretary of the Interior. Lucas Oil has a manufacturing facility in Corydon, Indiana, in the home state of Vice President-elect (and Indiana Governor) Mike Pence.
10) Rex Tillerson/Lee Raymond. Joe Scarborough — host of the MSNBC show “Morning Joe” — has reported that sources have told him the Trump transition team is mulling hiring either the CEO or former CEO of ExxonMobil to serve as U.S. Secretary of State. Tillerson currently serves as CEO of Exxon, while Raymond served as his predecessor. Exxon is the largest oil and gas company on the planet, and has said it does not consider itself an American company and has no particular loyalty to the country in which it was founded and in which it is headquartered, as revealed in investigative journalist Steve Coll's 2012 book, Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power.
Exxon is currently under a multi-state Attorneys General investigation for potential securities fraud and defrauding the public on climate change by funding a climate denial network, though its in-house scientists had done some of the first groundbreaking research on climate change.
Trump has come under fire for his posture toward and remarks about Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, while some Democratic U.S. Senators have written a letter saying they have “additional information concerning the Russian government and the U.S. election that should be declassified and released to the public.” As it turns out, Exxon maintains close business ties with Russian state-owned company Rosneft, as reported on DeSmog at the start of the Crimea crisis in Ukraine.
If nominated to a Cabinet position, both chambers of the U.S. Congress must vote to confirm the nominee. A source told the Washington Examiner that Trump will announce his EPA and DOE leadership picks next week.
Main image: Swamp Thing sketch by Jen Garcia via Flickr CC