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Texas Environmentalist Calls Perry Appointment To Head Energy A Mixed Bag

Ryan Poppe
Texas Public Radio
The U.S. Senate confirmed former Texas Gov. Rick Perry 62-37 to serve as U.S. Secretary of Energy.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s Senate confirmation as U.S. Energy secretary is getting positive reviews from Texas Republicans, but environmentalists from his home state say the appointment is a mixed bag.


Thursday, on the floor of the S. Senate, Texas’ senior senator John Cornyn extolled Perry’s energy policies as governor, say they promoted cutting edge innovation and sensible energy regulation.

“The state (under Perry) became not just an oil and gas powerhouse but the top wind producing state in the country,” Cornyn said.

Perry’s development of wind energy and the transmission system to distribute it is a big reason environmentalists like Tom “Smitty” Smith see something valuable in Perry’s appointment, even though they opposed it.  Smith is the retired director of Public Citizen's Texas office.

“In Texas he put tens of thousands of people to work in the renewable energy field and built a huge transmission infrastructure program that put tens of thousands of people to work hanging the lines and putting up the towers,” Smith said. 

“ If he does that around the United States we’ll see lower electric bills, less pollution and more jobs in a lot of rural areas. “

Credit Texas Standard
Texas Standard
Tom "Smitty" Smith, retired Texas director of Public Citizen, gives former Gov Rick Perry good marks for developing Texas wind energy but opposed his appointment as U.S. Energy Secretary citing his record on gas and nuclear regulations.

Smith cited industry numbers indicating there are currently 31,000 Texas jobs in the renewable energy sector, and about 5,700 in the mining of coal, an energy source that creates more greenhouse gases.

Smith says, however, Perry record on oil and gas regulation has raised concerns among environmentalists. 

“He’s been pro-natural gas and fracking and ignored a lot of the consequences in terms of air and water pollution and the frack quakes that resulted. He is someone who has been very pro- bringing nuclear waste to Texas and failed to put many of the protections in the law that we thought were necessary.”

As Energy Secretary, Rick Perry will manage the U.S. nuclear stockpile. He’s on record supporting Andrews County in West Texas as a repository for high level nuclear radioactive waste. Bexar County commissioners recently went on record opposing the Andrews County site, saying they don’t want nuclear waste shipments traveling through their county.

Shelley Kofler is Texas Public Radio’s news director. She joined the San Antonio station in December 2014 and leads a growing staff that produces two weekly programs; a daily talk show, news features, reports and online content. Prior to TPR, Shelley served as the managing editor and news director at KERA in Dallas-Fort Worth, and the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.