Driving the news: A running theme in Energy secretary Rick Perry's trio of appearances before lawmakers this week was the way Perry distanced himself from the White House budget plan for DOE, especially proposals like killing of ARPA-E.
Perry repeatedly noted that the proposal was written before he was confirmed, yet he also made a few nods towards his institutional role of defending the document.
This exchange with Democrat Al Franken during yesterday's Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing captures the weird position Perry finds himself in:
- Franken: "I don't envy your position. You seem to be a defense counsel for someone charged with murder, and you seem to be saying, 'I know he's guilty but I'm going to give him a robust defense.'"
- Perry: "That's an interesting observation, sir."
What really matters: Perry's ability to change the policy and political focus of the agency, not the overall spending levels that Congress will largely dictate.
In the near term, all eyes are on the release — now delayed until July — of the power grid reliability study he ordered and how it may affect federal policy.
Go deeper: Over at the Niskanen Center, veteran environmental attorney David Bookbinder breaks down the idea that Perry could invoke his authority under the Federal Power Act to keep coal plants operating that had been slated to shut down.
His conclusion: Perry would be on very shaky and vulnerable legal ground, Bookbinder's blog post argues.
- "The legislative history confirms that Congress intended this to be used for wars, sudden demand spikes, fuel shortages, etc., and not for a slowly-developing situation such as renewable power allegedly posing a reliability threat to the grid."