What You Should Know About the President-Elect’s Latest Cabinet Picks

By Yessenia Funes Dec 13, 2016

As President-elect Donald Trump continues to make selections for his Cabinet, he has not shied away from a number of energy lobbyists and climate change deniers. This includes his newest picks. Trump nominated ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state today (December 13) and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy, NBC News reported last night (December 12).

Both appointments face Senate confirmation. And breaking with the president-elect, Republican senators John McCain and Marco Rubio have criticized Tillerson’s nomination given his friendly ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Additionally, organizations and activists including Greenpeace USA and Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network have spoken out against the individual cabinet positions. Here, the major reasons why they are not being welcomed by all. 

Nominee for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson 

The president-elect had been vetting others like former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and past New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to take over Secretary John Kerry’s role, but he tweeted this morning that he chose Tillerson, “one of the truly great business leaders of the world.”

He also tweeted:

statement his transition team released said, “Rex Tillerson’s career is the embodiment of the American dream.”

The CEO was also quoted in the statement, saying, “We must focus on strengthening our alliances, pursuing shared national interests and enhancing the strength, security and sovereignty of the United States.” 

One security threat Tillerson may hesitate to tackle? Climate change.

As the CEO of one of the world’s fossil fuel giants, he has voiced concern over the man-made disaster—whereas most of Trump’s picks deny climate change. Tillerson has also called out the risks of climate change and said they “warrant serious action” at this year’s Oil & Money Conference. 

However, investigations by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times in 2015 found that the Exxon corporation was aware that long-term emissions of carbon dioxide would cause climate change by the mid-1980s…but then it supported climate denying lawmakers and organizations, including donating to entities like the American Legislative Exchange Council. 

Following this exposé, in March, 20 state attorney generals launched investigations into Tillerson’s business. By September, the Securities and Exchange Commission became involved by requesting documents from the company, according to The Wall Street Journal. It remains unclear what will happen to these investigations as Tillerman joins the White House.

Tillerson has also praised the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the past, which the president-elect has openly opposed. The free trade deal would issue a major blow to low-income workers of color who comprise much of the domestic industries which would be exported under the deal. During past trade deals like NAFTA, people of color made up 30 percent of displaced workers, according to the Communications Workers of America, which opposes the deal.

Nominee for Secretary of Energy Rick Perry

The president-elect hasn’t made a formal statement on Perry, but two sources close to the transition told NBC News that Trump is going with the former governor. Perry will be a stark contrast to the current secretary of energy, nuclear physicist Ernest Jeffrey Moniz. While the Department of Energy handles extractive processes, which Perry managed during his time leading oil-rich Texas, the department is also a major security agency. It maintains the country’s nuclear technology—including its weapons.

Unlike Tillerson, Perry has political experience. He governed Texas for 15 years after serving as the state’s agriculture commissioner. He ran for president this year and also in 2012. The first time, he forgot the name of the Department of Energy when discussing what Cabinet departments he’d cut as president. Now, he’ll be in charge of the very department he wanted to erase.

Perry also has experience with energy companies—like Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. He’s sat on the company’s Board of Directors since February 2015. Already, U.S. congressional representatives are calling out this conflict of interest. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) tweeted today that his involvement should disqualify him. Perry supported the fossil fuel industry during his time as governor, often fueling the climate denial debate by calling the issue “hysteria” and even writing in his book “Fed Up!” that “we have been experiencing a cooling trend,” reports Mother Jones.

Confirmation hearings for both men should begin in early January.