Hanford

Cantwell troubled by Trump questionnaire; DOE won’t name names

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., tours the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, learning about efforts to modernize the electric grid.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., tours the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, learning about efforts to modernize the electric grid. Tri-City Herald file

A list of questions from President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team to the Department of Energy is “troubling,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., on Tuesday.

A spokesman for DOE said some of the questions had left “many in our work force unsettled.”

DOE will not provide any individual names to the transition team, said Eben Burnham-Snyder, DOE director of public affairs.

Among the questions was a request for the names of DOE or contractor employees who participated in meetings associated with the present administration’s efforts to calculate the costs to society of climate change, and the names of those who participated in international meetings on climate change.

“We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department,” Burnham-Snyder said.

The 74 questions on the list also included five for the DOE Office of Environmental Management, including one specifically about Hanford. The Trump transition team wanted to know what the alternatives were to the increasing costs and schedule for the Hanford vitrification plant being built to treat up to 56 million gallons of radioactive waste.

That question may be answered, as Burnham-Snyder said that DOE would be forthcoming with all publicly available information.

Federal civil service employees and government contractors may in the future be reluctant to perform certain tasks for fear that a subsequent election may bring retribution.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

Cantwell has asked Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz for a copy of all documents and written correspondence DOE gives to the transition team.

Cantwell is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and she represents about 15,000 people in Washington state directly or indirectly employed by DOE. The majority live in the Tri-City area, working at the Hanford nuclear reservation or for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“These unprecedented questions suggest the incoming administration may be preparing to take arbitrary action against civil servants and government contractors simply because they worked, at the request of the Obama administration, on issues pertaining to climate change, the nuclear weapons complex and innovation polices, particularly related to clean energy technologies,” Cantwell said.

It is not surprising that the transition team is focused on redirecting numerous DOE programs related to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, she said.

Thomas Pyle, who leads the transition’s energy team, runs two organizations primarily funded by fossil fuel interests: the Institute for Energy Research and the American Energy Alliance, Cantwell said.

Shortly before Pyle was named to the transition team, he proposed that the Trump administration withdraw from the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reconsider the Environmental Protection Agency’s determination that greenhouse gas emissions threaten public health and welfare.

“Federal civil service employees and government contractors may in the future be reluctant to perform certain tasks for fear that a subsequent election may bring retribution,” Cantwell said.

She will be monitoring the incoming administration to determine if employees and contractors are mistreated because they attended meetings or worked on issues to further Obama administration initiatives, she said.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews

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