Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers

Jerri-Lynn here: President-elect Trump is expected to name his nominees to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy sometime next week. The latter section of this post provides a useful primer on the backgrounds, connections and biases of possible nominees for spots in the Trump administration’s climate and energy team. Those who don’t make the cut for a senior administration position will no doubt remain active on energy issues, so it’s useful to have this information collected in one link-rich place. The introductory section repeats familiar talking points, which have been widely and extensively discussed.

By Steve Horn, who is is an Indianapolis, IN-based Research Fellow for DeSmogBlog and a freelance investigative journalist. He previously was a reporter and researcher at the Center for Media and Democracy. In his free time, Steve is a competitive runner and marathoner, with a personal best time of 2:43:04. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, majoring in political science and legal studies, his writing has appeared in Al Jazeera America, The Guardian, Vice News, The Intercept, Vocativ, Wisconsin Watch, Truth-Out, AlterNet, NUVO, Isthmus and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @SteveAHorn. Originally published at DeSmogBlog.

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 4000 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 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.

Trump is a climate change denier and so is Priebus, who recently told Fox News that climate denial will be the “default position” of the Trump administration.

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.

Some of those names, such as Catanzaro and McKenna, have dropped out of the mix as a result of Trump’s so-called “Drain the Swamp” ethics reform initiative to reduce lobbyists’ influence in D.C.

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-fundedInstitute 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

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 and 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 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 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 pipelineKeystone 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 in 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 any 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 candidateU.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.

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    1. Vatch

      You need to be more ambitious. There are three cabinet level positions available (Energy, Interior, and EPA), and two Democratic Senators being considered: Heitkamp of ND, and Manchin of WV. The number of Democrats in the Senate could be reduced by two!

      Am I being sarcastic? Well, maybe just a wee bit. . . .

    2. Norm norton

      Reducing democratic congressional positions to fill cabinet positions is folly! Republican governors will fill the empty seats. More GOP strategy to reduce dem control.

  1. mad as hell.

    I wanna hear some more ” just give him a chance”.
    Even an abused dog will know when to stop returning to their master.

    1. pretzelattack

      tensions with russia seem to have ramped down a bit, and the trade treaties aren’t doing well. that’s maybe the best outcome we could have expected from the 2 awful choices.

      1. craazyboy

        Looks like yuuuge and beuuutiful SUVs are in our future. Maybe some coal powered choo choo trains too!

    2. Aumua

      Certainly those who voted for the “Evil we don’t know” will admit that one of the possibilities has always been that Trump will actually end up being worse than Clinton.

        1. Aumua

          I assume you’re not holding your breath, and if you are I would advise you to go ahead and exhale. It’s obviously gone past the point where dems and pubs mean anything different. Likewise I say that if and when meaningful change starts to happen, it’s not going to much matter who the president of the U.S. is anymore.

  2. Oil Dusk

    Perhaps with these leaders (on your list) in place we can counter balance the mindlessness of the last administration that saw climate change initiatives as one of their major legacy issues. That administration’s preferential research funding for anything that only supported the IPCC’s side of the debate drove unbalanced research and regulatory actions. The highlights of such thinking resulted in the loss of 40% of the existing coal power production in this country over the past eight years. Let’s hope we have more rational minds in place over the next four years.

    Get a grip, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.

    1. AvaB

      I can’t believe your comment was even taken out of the moderation queue… But NC has been doing excellent work covering the horrors of coal, both from a worker & environmental perspective. Coal boosters really have no shame.

      1. Yves Smith

        He was not in the mod queue. But we had intended to mod OilDusk as a one-topic lobbyist, and hence not participating here in good faith. Thanks for the reminder.

        1. Strategist

          Looks to me to be more of a troll than a lobbyist – a deliberate timewaster and wind-up artist. Don’t feed the trolls, folks!

    2. John Steinbach

      The primary reason for the decrease in coal power production is outsourcing pollution to china & the high cost & popular opposition to building and siting new coal fired plants.

      CO2 pollution is the number one threat to the planet. to deny this is absurd. Just look at yearly global heat records falling annually like dominoes and the ongoing arctic death spiral.

    3. John Zelnicker

      @Oil Dusk – Since you are taking positions here at NC that are in contradiction to the established science accepted by the vast majority of climate scientists, please disclose your connections to the fossil fuel industry and who (if anyone) is funding your efforts.

      Thank you.

    4. FluffytheObeseCat

      Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas; to state that it is not a “pollutant” is to miss the point. The great increase in atmospheric carbon over the past 150 years is attributable to human activity specifically: power generation, concrete production, deforestation and increased farming. Increasing carbon dioxide and methane in our atmosphere are driving global temperature increases and the acidification of our oceans.

    5. Vatch

      Oil Dusk, the last time you posted a Youtube video about climate, I watched part of it, and posted a comment here:

      I didn’t have time to watch the whole video; I suspect that I would have had more to say about it if I had had the time. You never replied to what I said.

      I don’t have time to watch your new video, but if there’s a transcript, please point me to it, and I’ll try to read it. The person in your latest video is Matt Ridley, and here’s a web page about his climate ideas:

      Matt Ridley is a Conservative hereditary peer and journalist, who used to be best known for writing about genetics. He is probably better known now for being the chairman of Northern Rock bank at the time that it had to be bailed out by British taxpayers in 2007.

      In October, his earnings from the coal mining that takes place on his country estate in Northumberland made national headlines when anti-coal campaigners chained themselves to machinery in protest. Ridley has long had a statement on his website setting out his position on the income he receives from coal mining, but, to date, has refused to say how much he earns.

      [ A bit like Hillary Clinton’s refusal to release the transcripts of her Wall Street speeches. I checked Ridley’s web site, and there’s still no statement of his personal income from coal mining. — Vatch ]

      There is a 21 page interview with Ridley, peppered with annotations by various scientists. Ridley makes several errors in the interview.

      You say that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Carbon dioxide from animal exhalation or from burning vegation is not a pollutant, because no additional carbon dioxide is being added to the biosphere. However, when fossil fuels are burned, the carbon dioxide most definitely is a pollutant, because that carbon dioxide comes from carbon that has been sequestered from the biosphere’s cycles for tens of millions (and frequently hundreds of millions) of years. Fossil fuel carbon dioxide dangerously interferes with the cycles of our biosphere.

      1. John Zelnicker

        @Vatch – Thank you for providing information on the videos recommended by Oil Dusk. I read your earlier comment, but it needs to be repeated whenever Oil Dusk makes these arguments.

        And, thank you for the explanation of the difference between CO2 that is in the current environment and the CO2 that hasn’t been for a long, long time. Very useful.

        1. Vatch

          You’re welcome. I’m glad the information is useful. I suspect that sometimes people post opinions as facts, and hope that nobody will notice the difference (in some cases, they may not realize that their opinion is not a fact). When I have time, and I recognize an opinion posing as a fact, I try to post a correction. Often I don’t have available time. Occasionally I’m wrong, too — oh well.

    6. JonboinAR

      Stop your lying! You know bloody well that UNDER THE RIGHT CIRCUMSTANCES, that is, when there’s too much of it, CO2 is a pollutant just like anything else. The fact that under different circumstances CO2 is not harmful at at all but necessary, is entirely irrelevant to the argument of whether humans have been releasing too much CO2 into the atmosphere.

  3. JEHR

    The whole planet is in for four horrible years of massive fracking, financial deregulation, coal burning, oil production, climate extremes, environmental devastation, pipeline building, Koch influenced, all run amok. Will we survive?

    1. Art Eclectic

      Most of us will survive, but we’ll be treated to the daily news spectacle of how that impacts the poorest of the populations and refugee crisis across the globe (the more callous among us will suggest that it’s simply the meritocracy and survival of the fittest at work). Our grandchildren will live with the aftereffects of unrecoverable damage.

      There’s nothing we can do about it at this point. The shallow end of the gene pool is in charge.

    2. Aumua

      The question is, will the Human species survive, and it is looking increasingly dubious that we will. Certainly the fate of many, many of the other species on Earth is already sealed. What’s going on right now at this moment in our oceans is really bad news. CO2 also acidifies the ocean. Picture a dead, acidified ocean and a 400 degree surface temperature. Do you think we can survive that? Is this a given? No, it’s not, but it is in the realm of possibilities. These are the kind of forces we’re absentmindedly playing with here.

    3. jrs

      we can hope the financial deregulation crashes the economic system before it kills us? Sorry … not much hope beyond that to offer, and that’s really not all that much hope. But the great recession did mean some drop in CO2, nothing else has, not in this economic system.

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