Perry: Dems live in a ‘fantasy world’ on climate change

Source: By Kelsey Brugger, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, August 16, 2019

 Rick Perry. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/FlickrEnergy Secretary Rick Perry. Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Energy Secretary Rick Perry accused Democratic presidential candidates of living in a “fantasy world” on their climate positions this week during an interview with Fox News.

Appearing on “America’s Newsroom” on Tuesday, Perry was asked about Democrats’ campaign rhetoric, including allegations by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that oil companies were guilty of “criminal activity” on climate change.

“I think they live in a fantasy world,” Perry said, adding that the United States is leading the world in cutting emissions. “That’s what they ought to be talking about.”

He added that “the Democrats that are running for president” think that “China would be a better place for all of this manufacturing to occur.”

“It is fantastical when you think about the true misrepresentation of the truth that the Democrats are spewing out there,” Perry said.

Perry’s remarks prompted one government ethics group to suggest the DOE chief’s comments violated the law — an accusation the agency rejected. Under the Hatch Act, federal employees are barred from engaging in political activities while in an official capacity.

“This reminds me of the Kellyanne Conway case,” said Delaney Marsco, an attorney at the Campaign Legal Center, referring to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel’s recommendations last month that the White House aide be fired for repeatedly blasting Democrats. “You can’t do this.”

Marsco said Perry is permitted to publicly discuss the Trump administration’s energy policies but indicated it was problematic when the secretary shifted to his opinion of the Democrats’ climate platforms. “That’s prohibited,” she said.

Yet a DOE ethics counsel refuted the notion that Perry’s comments violated the law. The official said a violation exists when a government official clearly endorses a political candidate. In this case, Perry was simply talking about different viewpoints of environmental issues.

Other watchdogs and ethics experts also expressed skepticism that Perry’s remarks crossed the line.

Tim Whitehouse, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), said he was “not sure” if Perry’s comments violated the Hatch Act but said there is “no bright line between government and campaigning for Secretary Perry.”

Similarly, Daniel Stevens of the Campaign for Accountability said it’s not “clear cut.” “He clearly uses some words he shouldn’t have, like vote or putting Pennsylvania in their column, but most of the interview is pretty focused on policy,” he said.

Perry echoed the Fox News segment during a speech yesterday at the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. Referring to the Democratic candidates, Perry said, “those people live in a fantasy world — it completely ignores how through innovation we are already becoming a clean energy leader.”

Environmentalists pushed back against Perry’s claim that U.S. emissions are declining. The League of Conservation Voters said “our country’s carbon dioxide emissions rose last year by the biggest increase in eight years,” pointing to data released by Rhodium Group in January.

In July, DOE defended earlier comments by Perry on emissions (Energywire, July 10).

In October, Perry stumped for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) ahead of the midterm elections. DOE spokeswoman Kelly Love said at the time Perry was appearing in his personal capacity and that they took precautions to ensure he did not use his official title (Greenwire, Oct. 29, 2018).

And earlier this year, Perry visited Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) shortly before his contested primary election, after a stream of five Trump officials made similar appearances in the Bluegrass State. DOE spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes at the time rejected the notion that the trip was political.