Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is Donald Trump’s dangerous nominee for Secretary of Energy. Yes, that’s Dancing With the Stars Rick Perry. “Oops” Rick Perry. Censoring-scientists-who-mention-climate-change Rick Perry.
If confirmed, he will be responsible for national energy policy, science and innovation in the U.S., and nuclear safety and security. This is a big job, and there’s no room for “oops.” So here’s a scary but important question: is Perry as incompetent as his “oops” moment made him seem, or is he just plain crooked?
As a politician whose campaigns have long been bankrolled by the oil and gas industry, it’s no surprise that Perry’s fossil fuel ties run deep. His climate science denial alone should disqualify him for the nation’s top energy job. But if that’s not enough to give the American public pause, maybe the actions of companies on whose boards he served will set off alarm bells.
It’s been widely reported that Perry is on the board of two of the companies behind the nefarious Dakota Access Pipeline – Sunoco Logistics Partners and Energy Transfer Partners (ETP). He did, in fact, step down from both boards ahead of cabinet confirmation hearings in the Senate, but he was still in a leadership position when Sunoco and ETP sponsored the brutalization of Native water protectors and the desecration of their sacred lands.
But something else happened while Perry was on ETP’s board that’s gone almost unnoticed. The company applied for – and received – a government subsidy for a project that doesn’t actually exist, possibly misleading the State of Texas in order to gorge on millions of dollars in taxpayer handouts. Did former Texas Governor Perry’s presence on the ETP board play a role?
Here’s what happened, as first reported here in the Texas Observer:
Rick Perry became a member of ETP’s Board of Directors in February, 2015. Then in March, the company submitted a completed application for a $5.6 million subsidy to support construction of their “Alamo” natural gas processing plant in East Texas.
The Texas state comptroller’s office noticed something fishy. The Alamo plant they wanted a subsidy to build had already been under construction since 2014, under a different name – the East Texas Plant.
When the state comptroller inquired about this, ETP insisted that the “Alamo plant and the East Texas Plant [named in their filing] are definitely not one and the same.” Yet just months later, the company’s Chief Financial Officer told investors that the East Texas Plant they were about to sink money into was “also known as the Alamo Plant.” In other words, these two processing plants are, indeed, one and the same.
These (possibly dodgy) state subsidies (would) come on top of the $550 million that ETP already receives from a single federal government subsidy each year. Evidently, that wasn’t enough for Perry and his fellow board members. These billionaire oil and gas companies wanted even more of our money.
So what does all of this mean?
By all appearances, ETP may have misled the state of Texas to swindle nearly $6 million in subsidies. One has to wonder whether the presence of the former Governor of Texas on ETP’s board played a role in the comptroller’s office signing off on the subsidy to a project ETP later acknowledged doesn’t exist. Was he involved in the scam? Was he asleep at the switch?
Neither explanation instills much confidence in the person whose job it is to lead U.S. energy innovation and nuclear security for the next four years. Given the powerful position Perry would hold, the issue deserves to be fully explored before anyone considers confirming Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy.