December has not been kind to the United States Department of Energy.
First there's the requisite turmoil inherent in any turnover from one administration to the next. Then came reports that Donald Trump's transition team was hounding department staffers to identify who among them had played roles in crafting President Obama's climate change policy. And on Tuesday, Trump announced that former Texas Governor Rick Perry would be heading the department—despite having forgotten it even existed during the 2012 Republican primary debates. Oops!
Nevertheless, the Department of Energy this week reminded us all that, yes, it is possible to stand up to Donald Trump—simply by saying "No."
In an email sent by spokesperson Eben Burnham-Snyder obtained by the Washington Post, the DoE made absolutely clear that it has no plans to accommodate the Trump team's search for those involved in current climate change policy.
The Department of Energy received significant feedback from our workforce throughout the department, including the National Labs, following the release of the transition team’s questions. Some of the questions asked left many in our workforce unsettled. Our career workforce, including our contractors and employees at our labs, comprise the backbone of DOE (Department of Energy) and the important work our department does to benefit the American people. We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department.
We will be forthcoming with all publically-available information with the transition team. We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team.”
The bolded emphasis? Burnham-Snyder put it in there.
The Post notes that while it's extremely difficult to fire federal civil servants, a list of those involved in crafting policy that runs counter to the Trump administration's goals could make it much easier to dismiss those voices if and when the next iteration of the DoE pursues more environmentally hazardous projects—a virtual certainty, given both Trump's and Perry's outspoken rejection of climate change science.
But more than just an isolated push-back against an alarming request, The DoE's refusal to acquiesce to Trump's demands is a worthwhile reminder to us all that one of the most effective ways to stand up to a bully is to simply stand your ground. While Trump seems to thrive on bloviation, intimidation, and the attention garnered thereof, we are, none of us, obligated to actually cave in to his demands. If the Department of Energy can hit their bold button and say "Not a chance, dude. Not gonna happen," well, so can everyone else.
Something we should all keep in mind for the next four years.