List of Major Environmental Issues

Donald Trump is pictured. | GettyDonald Trump's transition team is asking for a list of Energy Department workers who have attended any United Nations climate change conferences in the past five years. | Getty

Donald Trump’s transition team wants the Energy Department to provide the names of any employees who have worked on President Barack Obama’s climate initiatives — a request that has current and former staffers fearing an oncoming “witch hunt.”

The president-elect’s team sought the information as part of a 74-point questionnaire that also asked for details about how DOE’s statistical arm, the Energy Information Administration, does the math on issues such as the cost-effectiveness of wind and solar power versus fossil fuels. POLITICO obtained the document Friday, after Trump’s advisers sent it to the department earlier in the week.

The questions are just the latest sign that Trump is feeling out ways to undo Obama's environmental agenda, in which DOE has played a major role through actions such as issuing billions of dollars in loan guarantees to green-energy projects backed by companies such as Google and Tesla. Trump has derided the idea of man-made climate change as a “hoax, ” and he’s announced plans to nominate one of the biggest critics of Obama's regulations — Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt — to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Coupled with calls by congressional Republicans to relax civil-service protections so that it’s easier to fire federal employees, the transition team’s demand that the Energy Department name names has some current and former workers fearing the worst.

“Sounds like a freaking witch hunt, ” one former DOE staffer wrote in an email.

“It is a remarkably aggressive and antagonistic tone to take with an agency that you’re about to try to manage, ” a current agency employee said. Another DOE staffer expressed the view that “some [of the questions] are harassment, some are naive, some are legitimate.”

“Why is that important for informing the transition team?” the person said of the list of people who worked on climate issues.

Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, denounced the questions as "environmental McCarthyism, " calling them "a witch hunt and a loyalty test all rolled into one."

“The transition team should reconsider these apparent attempts to intimidate Energy Department employees who were simply working to fulfill the climate objectives of the Obama administration, ” he wrote.

Trump transition officials declined to comment, as did the Energy Department.

Of the 74 questions posed by Trump’s advisers, two called for identifying the employees and contractors who worked on implementing the Obama administration's efforts to study and address climate change.

Workplace Environmental Issues

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Current Major Environmental Issues