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Trump’s Environment and Energy Team Could Include an Oil Tycoon and Sarah Palin

Trump’s list of options for cabinet positions include climate change skeptics, establishment GOP, and some surprises.
Image: Flickr

Donald Trump has begun setting up his cabinet and choosing his closest advisors, so far a mix of establishment conservatives and alt-right provocateurs like Steve Bannon and Peter Thiel.

Meanwhile, he's indicated his likely choices for the mostly men that will oversee environment and energy roles in his administration, according to documents obtained by Politico, The New York Times and Buzzfeed. (It's important to note that these are not his confirmed choices and are subject to change.)


Many of those he's chosen have decades of experience in finance, agriculture management and politics. But his cabinet choices are largely anti-regulation conservatives, some of whom have fought environmental protections and deny the need for government interference in how people treat the planet.

Environmental Protection Agency Director

Trump has tapped Myron Ebell, a well-known climate change skeptic, to lead the EPA transition.Trump has already stated he wants to disassemble the EPA, which was put in place to safeguard clean water, air and land.

Ebell has been directing environmental and energy policy at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institution, and has spent years trying to deny or question threat of climate change. In 2006, he wrote an opinion column for Forbes encouraging people to "love global warming", suggestion they should embrace milder winters. He did not, meanwhile, address the implications of rising seas, stronger storms and droughts that are predicted to occur from climate change.

Like Trump, Ebell has also suggested the US should leave the Paris Agreement, in which countries pledged to cap their carbon emissions to help lower the global temperature. He also promotes unregulated coal, oil and gas.

Secretary of Energy

Trump has indicated his leading candidates for the Secretary of Energy are venture capitalist Robert Grady and businessman Harold Hamm.

Grady is a partner at middle-market venture capital firm Gryphon Investors, a managing director at Maxim Integrated Products which produces semiconductors, and board member of asset management company Stifel Financial Corp. He jumped into politics as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush and was later named associate budget office director for natural resources, energy and science for the Bush Administration.


The Washington Post reported in 1989 that Grady "was the architect of Bush's promises during the campaign to take a more activist role than President [Reagan] in controlling acid rain, stopping ocean dumping, expanding national parks and accelerating toxic-waste clean-up."

Meanwhile, Harold Hamm, an Oklahoma billionaire and CEO of oil extraction company Continental Resources, made his fortune by developing oil and gas resources in the Bakken Formation, which covers parts of Montana and North Dakota. He was named the presumptive choice for secretary of energy in Mitt Romney's cabinet in 2012, and he was consulted in a report that proposed removing federal protections for oil drilling from federal land and giving states authority to make those decisions.

While he was heralded as part of the U.S.'s post-recession recovery, his career hasn't been without controversy. He asked the dean of the University of Oklahoma to fire earthquake scientists who suggested fracking was connected to major earthquakes in the Midwest, Bloomberg reported in 2015. The U.S. Geological Survey has since reported a strong connection between the wastewater leftover from fracking and the earthquakes.

Secretary of Agriculture

While there is a long list of prospective choices for Secretary of Agriculture, the most widely discussed choice is Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.

Miller, an eighth-generation farmer, has stated he wants trade with Cuba and would support changing the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), McClatchy reported. He's also had a troubled tenure as state agriculture commissioner, and has been under investigation for inappropriately using state money to take personal trips.


"He has expanded the department's top paid positions, doled out more bonuses than any other statewide official and dramatically hiked fees for many of the industries and agricultural interests his agency regulates," the Texas Tribune reported in April.

Sam Brownback is presumed to be another top contender for Secretary of Agriculture. Brownback, governor of Kansas, was Kansas's secretary of agriculture in 1986 and was raised in a farming family.

He has been tangled in a financial web this year because his state didn't generate enough tax revenue to pay for all its services. This summer, the state had to hold back $260 million from public schools to balance its budget, largely due to Brownback's income tax cuts, the Kansas City Star reported.

Other possible choices are former Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, agriculture businessman Charles Herbster, and dairy executive Mike McCloskey, Politico reported.

Secretary of the Interior

Forrest Lucas, an oil magnate, is said to be the top choice for Secretary of the Interior, which oversees all national parks, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Land Management.

Lucas, a former trucker, is the CEO of Lucas Oil Products, which manufactures and distributes oil for automobiles, additives and lubricants. He is also the founder of Protect the Harvest, a pro-farming and pro-ranching non-profit that opposes "radical animal rights organizations." He considers the Humane Society of the United States to be among those groups and to be an "attack group."

Politico reported a source close to the Trump campaign confirmed the future president's interest in bringing Palin on board to a cabinet position. The former Alaska governor and Trump loyalist actually raised taxes on oil back in 2007, unlike her GOP predecessors, and wants to cap carbon emissions. But Palin has also voted to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the largest tract of protected wildlife in the country, and promotes unregulated hunting and fishing. She has also spoken out against efforts to classify polar bears and beluga whales as endangered species.

Robert Grady and Harold Hamm are also being considered for the post, in addition to Donald Trump Jr. and several midwestern governors.

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