Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson wasn’t the only climate disaster that President-elect Donald Trump added to his cabinet of horrors this week. On Tuesday, Trump tapped former Texas governor and noted climate denier Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy.
Perry is perhaps most known for his two failed presidential runs in 2012 and 2016, during the first of which he promised to abolish the Department of Energy entirely — or he would have if he could remember the name of it.
Or maybe you know him better as the 11th runner-up of the most recent season of “Dancing With the Stars,” on which he impressed with his cha cha and quickstep but was ultimately eliminated after a disappointing paso doble.
Before going on to explore his star potential, Perry also spent 15 years as governor of Texas. In that post, he did fun things like characterize same-sex relationships as “sodomy,” promote the teaching of creationism in public schools, do literally everything possible to limit access to abortion, and deny climate science whenever given the chance.
So there are plenty of reasons to oppose someone like Perry taking over the U.S. Department of Energy, which currently names climate action as a top priority. However, there’s one more that sticks out — he’s on the board of the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Perry, Trump, and the Dakota Access Pipeline
Perry joined the board of Energy Transfer Partners, the company building Dakota Access and numerous other pipelines across the country, in early 2015, just before launching his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
Previously, Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren had given $250,000 to Perry’s 2012 presidential Super PAC and $20,000 to his 2010 gubernatorial re-election campaign. This time around, Warren donated $100,300 to Trump’s presidential campaign directly and $66,800 to the Republican National Committee after became the nominee.
Nice to know they’re all friends.
While Trump has stated that he’s sold his stock in Energy Transfer Partners, he’s still connected to the Dakota Access Pipeline in a variety of ways. He’s invested between $100,000 and $250,000 in Phillips 66, the company that would own one-quarter of the pipeline should it be completed. And one of his top energy advisers, Harold Hamm, is the CEO of Continental Resources, whose oil would flow through the pipeline.
Add Perry to the mix, and it’s no wonder Trump has publicly supported the project — he and his team stand to personally profit from its completion.
The Dakota Access Pipeline’s Future Under Trump
Construction on the pipeline was halted after the Obama administration’s Army Corps of Engineers denied Energy Transfer Partners its final drilling permit. Instead, it will undertake a full environmental impact statement that includes community consultation with groups like the Standing Rock Sioux.
It’s a victory for the Indigenous water protectors fighting the project, but it also means the final decision on the pipeline is likely to come during Trump’s time in office. And as much as it took to convince President Obama to step in, it’s going to take even more to stop the pipeline for good against a Trump administration that wants to put people like Perry in power.