President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team on Wednesday disavowed a survey sent to the U.S. Department of Energy that requested the names of people working on climate change in the agency.
“The questionnaire was not authorized or part of our standard protocol,” Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said. “The person who sent it has been properly counseled.”
Spicer declined to comment further on the team’s protocols.
The survey of 74 questions, which the Energy Department received last Tuesday, asked for the names of workers and contractors who had attended U.N. climate meetings. It also asked for the names of those who had attended meetings on the social cost of carbon, a metric that federal agencies use in formulating regulations on the energy business.
The department had balked at the survey this week, saying it would not comply. “We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department,” department spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder said on Tuesday.
“We will be forthcoming with all publicly available information with the transition team. We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team.”
The survey had also asked for a list of all the professional society memberships that workers at the department’s 17 laboratories belong to.
The White House weighed in on the survey this week. Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, said the questionnaire “could have been an attempt to target civil servants” including career scientists and lawyers and other experts critical to the government’s ability to make policy.
Trump, a Republican, said during the campaign that climate change was a hoax perpetrated by China to damage U.S. manufacturing. He said he would rip up last year’s landmark global climate deal struck in Paris that was signed by Democratic President Barack Obama.
Since winning however, Trump has said he will keep an “open mind” about the Paris deal. He also met with former Vice President Al Gore and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, strong advocates for action on climate change.
Trump has picked climate skeptic Rick Perry to run the Energy Department. Perry, governor of Texas from December 2000 to January 2015, would replace nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Emily Stephenson; editing by Grant McCool)