White House

If Perry leaves Energy, his deputy seems likely to sustain his policies

Rumors of Perry's impending departure put Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette in spotlight

Energy Secretary Rick Perry is one of President Donald Trump's longest-serving Cabinet members. An Energy Department spokeswoman denied reports that he was planning to step down soon. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The No. 2 man at the Energy Department is primed to carry on the agency’s “energy dominance” agenda should his boss, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, step down.

Perry is preparing to step down before the end of November, Politico and other media outlets reported Thursday, a decision that would end the service of one of President Donald Trump’s longest-lasting Cabinet secretaries. Perry’s departure would likely place Dan Brouillette, the deputy secretary, in charge of the Energy Department.

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Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes denied that Perry is planning to leave his job.

“While the beltway media has breathlessly reported on rumors of Secretary Perry’s departure for months, he is still the Secretary of Energy and a proud member of President Trump’s Cabinet,” she said in an emailed statement. “One day the media will be right. Today is not that day.”

The longest-serving governor of Texas, Perry has also been linked to the congressional impeachment inquiry of Trump due to trips he took to Ukraine in the spring.

According to a whistleblower complaint, Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine and pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden and their business dealings in the country.

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked Perry on Oct. 1 for information about the U.S. delegation he led to Zelenskiy’s inauguration in May. Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to lead the trip before Trump directed Perry to instead, according to the whistleblower complaint.

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“Did President Trump ever ask you to convey to President Zelenskiy, other Ukrainian officials, or any other individuals, President Trump’s desire for assistance in investigating one of his political opponents or their family members, or unsubstantiated theories related to Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 U.S. election?” Menendez asked in a letter sent Tuesday.

Perry’s office has not yet responded publicly to the letter.

Perry has used his post to tout the benefits of fossil fuels, often serving as a pitchman for natural gas exports abroad, including in Eastern Europe.

Under Perry, the department called natural gas “freedom gas” and said it was helping spread “molecules of freedom” overseas through gas infrastructure projects.

Brouillette has not broken with Perry on any significant energy policies, including the department’s attempt, filed at the Federal Electricity Regulatory Commission, to rewrite electricity market regulations to favor coal- and nuclear-generated electricity.

FERC rejected that proposal, which would have required power stations to maintain a 90-day fuel supply on site, a provision that benefits coal and nuclear sources, in January 2018.

Brouillette, a Louisianan, former staffer to Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, and father of nine, worked on congressional affairs at the Energy Department during the George W. Bush administration.

The Senate confirmed him by a vote of 79-17 on Aug. 3, 2017. When Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois asked Brouillette at his confirmation hearing if humans were warming the climate due to greenhouse gas emissions, he demurred.

“Quite simply, senator, the climate is changing and we’re all living here, so we must have some impact,” Brouillette said.

He also told Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah that he is open to structural changes to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — a federal network of oil depositories in Texas and Louisiana.

“I am not convinced that a single repository or a series of repositories in one location in the country is going to serve us well in certain moments or certain catastrophes,” he said.

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