President Donald Trump said Friday he is nominating Dan Brouillette to be the top official at the Energy Department, replacing Secretary Rick Perry, and the department said it would not comply with a congressional subpoena for records about Perry’s contacts with officials in Ukraine.
Trump made the announcement about Brouillette on Twitter a day after Perry told the president he would resign from the post this year.
Hours after the president’s announcement, Melissa Burnison, an assistant secretary at DOE, said in a letter to House Democrats that the agency would not provide records they demanded last week from Perry.
In the letter to heads of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees, which sent the subpoena, Burnison said an official impeachment inquiry had not begun because the full House had not voted to authorize one or delegated the inquiry to another authority.
“By failing to validly authorize the impeachment inquiry, the House apparently seeks to investigate conduct of an impeachable officer pursuant to the legislative power — not the impeachment power of the House,” the letter reads.
The committees allowed until Friday to meet the subpoena, which they sent Oct. 10.
In recent weeks, Perry emerged as a key figure in the House’s Trump impeachment inquiry, and Democratic investigators on House committees are examining Perry’s connections to Trump’s effort to extract political favors from Ukraine in exchange for military aid.
In statements on Twitter, Trump thanked Perry, who the president said is leaving “to pursue other interests” before 2020.
“At the same time, I am pleased to nominate Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette to be the new Secretary of Energy. Dan’s experience in the sector is unparalleled,” Trump said. “A total professional, I have no doubt that Dan will do a great job!”
It is unclear when Perry will leave and when Brouillette, who has served as deputy secretary since August 2017, will take over as acting secretary before a confirmation process in the Senate.
“Rick has done a fantastic job,” Trump told reporters Thursday in Texas. “But it was time.”
Brouillette worked at DOE during the George W. Bush administration and has followed Perry’s lead on policy.
The two were in lockstep in supporting a plan to require power plants to carry a 90-day supply of fuel at their facilities, a provision that would have benefited coal and nuclear energy companies.
Last year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the chief federal utility regulator, rejected that proposal, which environmentalists and other energy industries decried as a bailout for coal and nuclear.
Bob Murray, CEO of coal company Murray Energy and a major Trump donor, had advocated for the proposal.
Speaking days later at an Atlantic Council event in Abu Dhabi, Brouillette criticized policies he said amount to a “war on coal” in the country.
“Clearly, fewer coal and nuclear plants mean that the lights will go out and stay out when we face our next emergency,” he said. “From the functioning of our hospitals to the maintenance of our military assets, the results could be catastrophic.”
In its ruling, FERC, which has a majority of commissioners appointed by Trump, said the U.S. electricity supply is not at risk, and experts say renewables do not pose a threat to the power grid.
Brouillette has taken a globe-trotting role at DOE, attending conferences and meetings worldwide to promote the sale and export of natural gas.
In an interview last month with conservative radio-show host Hugh Hewitt, Brouillette said European nations would not meet their climate targets set under the Paris climate agreement of 2015 without nuclear power stations.
“So we get some pressure every now and then from the Europeans and others who, you know, criticize the President for backing out of the Paris accords,” he said. “The bottom line is that none of those countries are going to meet those environmental targets that they have set for themselves without nuclear power.”