The Energy Department said Tuesday it won't provide the names of staffers who worked on climate policy or other issues to President-elect Donald Trump's transition team, even as it pledges to cooperate with the incoming administration.
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Trump's transition team is seeking information about the agency's operations and personnel, including a list of employees and contractors who attended international meetings on climate change over the past five years.
An Energy Department spokesman said that while officials will be forthcoming with all publicly available information, "we will not be providing any individual names to the transition team."
Some of the questions asked by Trump's team left DOE workers "unsettled," spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder said, adding that DOE officials "respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department."
Trump's transition team submitted 74 questions to DOE last week, including two that asked for identities of staffers who worked on Obama administration climate policy efforts.
One Energy Department official called the 74 questions a hit list and said Trump's team appeared to be going after top scientists and employees who work on subjects ranging from the Iran nuclear deal to the internal operations of the national energy labs. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity to discuss the document.
The official said questions about professional society memberships and websites that staff at the Energy Department's national laboratories maintain or contribute to could raise questions about Trump's commitment to scientific independence — a fundamental tenet at the agency.
The Energy Department has a $32 billion annual budget, yet the bulk of its workforce — nearly 100,000 employees — comes from private contractors. The agency has 14,000 government employees.
"Our career workforce, including our contractors and employees at our labs, comprise the backbone of DOE and the important work our department does to benefit the American people," Burnham-Snyder said.
Democrats have called the questionnaire a modern-day political witch hunt that could have a chilling impact on federal workers.