Potential EPA, DOE deputies come to bury, not praise, agencies

In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Marc Antony stands before the Roman Senate and proclaims that he comes to bury the recently deceased emperor, not to praise him. The people expected to take leading deputy jobs in President Donald J. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) could easily follow in Antony’s footsteps.

Multiple news outlets are reporting that Brian McCormack, the Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI) vice president of political and external affairs, will become Rick Perry’s chief of staff at the DOE if Perry, as expected, is confirmed by the Senate this week. Other reports say EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will tap Samantha Dravis as his right-hand advisor.

Both choices should make the blood run cold of anyone who loves the solar industry.

The fact that McCormack, who also served President George W. Bush in multiple capacities and was once a White House aide, comes from EEI’s political shop is concerning. After all, the organization is the primary lobbying arm for state-supported utilities and has been a notorious solar opponent as the industry blossomed in recent years.

2017-02-28 09_33_26-DOE_ EEI strategist poised for top job under Perry — sources -- Monday, February

In his role as Perry’s chief deputy, McCormack would help Perry oversee the department’s multi-billion dollar budget and workforce at a time when the president is expected to announce potentially devastating cuts to the department.

Given Perry’s uneven performance in his confirmation hearings, during which he often seemed unsure of what the department did, McCormack could have an outsized influence on what happens at the DOE.

Dravis, Pruitt’s purported choice at the EPA, should surprise no one. After all, Dravis played critical administrative roles in the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) and its affiliated Rule of Law Defense Fund, both of which Pruitt chaired during his time as the attorney general of Oklahoma.

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Samantha Dravis hosts a panel at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference. by Gage Skidmore, courtesy of Flickr

Both groups have aggressively opposed President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which has been targeted for destruction by Trump and his allies since the 2016 campaign. Opponents argue the CPP regulations, designed to promote renewable energy and bring the United States in compliance with the Paris Agreement on climate signed last year by 195 countries, has become a job-killing drain on the U.S economy.

Though Dravis has no experience in environmental law, she has worked as a lawyer for Freedom Partners, a Koch Industries-affiliated conservative group. Koch Industries is the largest privately held oil company in the world. RAGA has also relied on funding from the Koch brothers.

Dravis joins an EPA team that includes Ryan Jackson, who Pruitt chose as his chief of staff yesterday. Jackson is a former aide to Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, who once carried a snowball on to the Senate floor as proof that Climate Change was a hoax.

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