By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s pick to run the Energy Department, Dan Brouillette, will face questions at his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday on issues including the future of coal and nuclear power.
Brouillette, 57, a former lobbyist at Ford Motor Co <F.N> and Louisiana state energy regulator, would replace Rick Perry, who has said he is stepping down on Dec. 1. Perry
was involved in a side-channel Ukraine policy led by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, that has been at the centre of the Trump impeachment probe.
If, as expected, he is confirmed by the Senate Energy Committee and then by the full Senate, Brouillette, now the deputy energy secretary, will work to carry out Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda of boosting U.S. production of oil and natural gas.
He will also look to find a way to support ageing nuclear and coal plants. Perry had tasked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to subsidise the plants, many of which are shutting because of a glut of cheap natural gas, a competing fuel. FERC decided against doing so, but Brouillette could try to promote other policies to help the plants.
A native of Louisiana, Brouillette was a member of the state’s Mineral and Energy Board from 2013 to 2016. Before that, he served at the Energy Department as an assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental affairs under former President George W. Bush.
Joe McMonigle, who has known Brouillette since they both worked under Bush, said he expected Democrats on the Senate panel would ask him about local issues, such as whether Nevada’s Yucca Mountain will ever become a central repository for nuclear waste.
“They will check the box on parochial issues, like Yucca, but I don’t see anything holding him up,” he said. McMonigle, a former Energy Department chief of staff, predicted Brouillette would be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate by the end of the month.
Democratic senators not on the Energy Committee, including Ed Markey and Tim Kaine, sent Brouillette a letter on Wednesday asking whether he supported nonproliferation standards in any deal on sharing U.S. nuclear power technology with Saudi Arabia, a question he will likely continue to face if he is confirmed as secretary.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Peter Cooney)