March 02, 2017

Van Hollen Statement in Opposition to Confirmation of Gov. Rick Perry to be Energy Secretary

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen submitted the following statement to the congressional record in opposition to the confirmation ofGovernor Rick Perry to be Secretary of the Department of Energy:

"Mr. President, I oppose the nomination of Governor Rick Perry to be Secretary of the Department of Energy, a Department that he called for eliminating in 2011. After briefings on the Department's mission and programs, Governor Perry came to "regret" that position. But his short education on his prospective job is not enough to prepare him for its complexity and importance.

"The Department of Energy is a home of innovation and, critically, the Federal agency that manages the safety and reliability of our nuclear arsenal. The last two Secretaries of Energy were physicists.

"According to the Dallas Morning News:

'In all of the department's missions, science is front and center. But during his 14 years as governor, Perry built a questionable record when it comes to science. He has a pattern of supporting offbeat medical theories while dismissing the established science on climate change. And his record of using public funds to boost technology and research in Texas is littered with poor management and allegations of cronyism.'

"In one example, a 2010 Dallas Morning News investigation discovered mismanagement and political influence in the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, which Governor Perry established to provide funding to high-tech startups. The Dallas Morning News reported that the Fund awarded more than $16 million to companies with connections to large campaign donors. A company in which an old college friend and donor invested received $2.75 million. Another company, where an investor had given more than $400,000 to Governor Perry's campaigns, received $1.5 million. A company founded by a former Perry appointee got $4.5 million.

"The Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and the House Speaker made the Emerging Technology Fund's decisions based on input from an advisory committee that operated in secret and did not take minutes. Its recommendations to the Governor were not public. This unusual decision-making process, with ultimate power vested in elected officials rather than technical experts, is deeply troubling. As Secretary of Energy, Governor Perry would be charged with managing a number of grant and loan programs aimed at developing the next generation of energy technologies.

"Governor Perry has also failed to commit to funding for ARPA-E and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. These programs are essential to ensuring that the United States is a leader in the 21st century energy economy and confronts the critical challenge of climate change.

"I am deeply concerned by Governor Perry's limited experience with our nation's nuclear program. While he did advocate a low-level nuclear waste repository in his state, he has no experience with nuclear weapons. His inexperience is particularly problematic when the President he would serve has also appeared confused by issues surrounding the nuclear triad and has inaccurately said that the United States has "fallen behind on nuclear weapons capacity."

"The United States is engaged in a $1 trillion program to refurbish our nuclear weapons systems, a process that should be tightly controlled. We should be reducing, not expanding, the number of nuclear weapons in the world. President Trump has questioned the New START Treaty, a critical tool to decrease nuclear weapons in both the United States and Russia. He glibly and irresponsibly called for "an arms race," even though the United States and Russia already control 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons and each have enough to destroy the world many times over.

"The Secretary of Energy needs to have a clear vision to manage our nuclear arsenal and ensure that the President fully understands our capabilities and their implications for national security and international peace. There is nothing in Governor Perry's record or testimony that indicates that he is prepared for this job.

"Governor Perry may have considered the Department of Energy insignificant enough to forget during his Presidential run, but its mission is essential to the safety and security of the American people. Between our national labs and research and loan programs, it fosters greater economic competitiveness and discovers new technologies to drive energy independence and solutions to climate change. I do not believe that Governor Perry is prepared to manage the Department and provide thoughtful counsel to the President, and thus I must vote against his nomination today."