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Environment

Alarm Over 'Witch Hunt' After Trump Demands List of Civil Servants Who Worked on Climate Policy Under Obama

Internal document shows Trump’s transition team instructed the Department of Energy to hand over names.

Photo Credit: stock_photo_world / Shutterstock.com

Donald Trump’s transition team is instructing the Department of Energy to hand over the names of all of the agency’s contractors and employers who have worked on key climate policies under President Barack Obama, raising concerns that a witch hunt is being orchestrated by the incoming administration.

The request was included in a 74-question internal document that was distributed last Wednesday. Bloomberg journalists Catherine Traywick and Jennifer Dlouhy first reported the memo, which was publicly posted by E&E News.

In the 40th question, the Trump administration requests a complete list of staffers who have participated in international climate negotiations. "Can you provide a list of Department employees or contractors who attended any of the IA Conference of the Parties (under the UNFCCC) in the last five years?” the document states.

During his campaign, Trump vowed to “cancel” the Paris climate accord, which was negotiated by representatives of nearly 200 countries.

The 27th question in the document states, “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, EPSA emails associated with those meetings, or materials created by Department employees or contractors in anticipation of or as a result of those meetings?”

The Environmental Protection Agency and other federal bodies use the Social Cost of Carbon as an “estimate of the economic damages associated with a small increase in carbon dioxide,” according to a statement from the EPA. The Obama administration has employed the metric to calculate the potential outcomes of policies aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The tool has garnered fierce opposition from conservatives and climate deniers, including David Kreutzer, who is part of Trump’s transition team for the EPA. A senior research fellow for the conservative Heritage Foundation, Kreutzer previously referred to the Social Cost of Carbon as “fundamentally flawed.”

Question 29 states, “Which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama's Climate Action Plan?”

Furthermore, the document instructs the DOE to provide lists and information about lab researchers, including, “Can you provide a list of the top twenty salaried employees of the lab, with total remuneration and the portion funded by the DOE?” Teryn Norris, a former appointee to the DOE, noted on Twitter that, “The questions on lab researchers—outside positions, prof society memberships, publications, websites—are extremely concerning.”

That an incoming administration is requesting the personal information of all civil servants who worked on these key initiatives and research is raising alarm. Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, declared in a press statement that “Creating lists of employees smacks of McCarthyism and should cease immediately.”

“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 for Sierra Club, said in a press statement.

“This action should not be viewed in isolation,” Kimmel continued. “The Trump transition team is teeming with individuals with a proven history of attacking climate scientists and undermining climate science. Several transition team members now overseeing federal agencies have harassed scientists based on their research and have long signaled a desire to dismantle federal climate science research.”

News of the questionnaire broke shortly before media outlets reported that oil baron Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., may be Trump’s appointee as Secretary of State. Thomas Pyle, who leads Trump’s energy transition team, is the president of the Institute for Energy Research, which was established by Charles Koch. He formerly worked as a lobbyist for Koch Industries.

In addition to pledging to tear up the Paris climate agreement, Trump vowed during his campaign to reverse environmental protections and approve more pipelines and oil and gas drilling. In 2012, Trump falsely stated on Twitter that, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."

Environmental campaigners and scientists have long warned that Obama's climate policies do not go far enough to address the crisis.

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

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