Rick Perry, the former Texas governor under consideration for a spot in President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet, faces questions over a potential conflict of interest due to his service on the board of a company building an oil pipeline delayed by protests.
Environmentalists say Perry’s position on the board of Energy Transfer Partners raises the specter of a conflict, especially if it falls to the Trump’s administration to make a final decision on the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. The Obama administration has put the project on hold.
“The incoming Trump administration ran on draining the swamp, however the deep financial ties they have with Big Oil and Wall Street makes all the campaign rhetoric just words,” said Jane Kleeb, president of activist group Bold Alliance. “If Trump is serious, he will require all appointments to cut all financial ties with these big corporations which are clear conflicts of interest.”
Perry, who met with Donald Trump Monday at Trump Tower in New York, has served as a director of the Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners since February 2015, according to the company’s website. He owns 2,868 units of stock worth about $100,000, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission form filed in January.
Perry also serves on the board of Sunoco Logistics Partners, which announced Monday its intention to buy Energy Transfer Partners in a stock deal worth more than $21 billion. Both companies are owned by billionaire Kelcy Warren who has contributed to Trump’s campaign and donated $1.5 million to Conservative organizations during this election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Trump himself owns between $15,000 and $50,000 in Energy Transfer Partners stock and between $100,000 and $250,000 in stock of Phillips 66, which has a 25 percent stake in the Dakota Access project, the Associated Press reported.
Vicki Granado, an Energy Transfer spokeswoman confirmed that Perry remains on the board, but did not respond to request for comment on potential conflict of interest. Representatives of Perry, Sunoco and the Trump transition didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Perry’s potential conflicts of interest aren’t unheard of and could be dealt with by either recusing himself of decisions involving those companies or putting his investments in a blind trust, said Brigham McCown, who served in the administration of President George W. Bush.
“It’s not insurmountable, but something would probably have to change,” McCown said. “They have career lawyers that deal with all that stuff.”
Among the positions Perry is said to be under consideration for is Secretary of Defense. A part of the Defense Department is the Army Corps of Engineers, which has yet to authorize a final permit needed for completion of the 1,172-mile pipeline that would bring oil from North Dakota’s Bakken formation to markets in Illinois. The pipeline giant can’t drill the final piece of the oil line beneath Lake Oahe in North Dakota until it gets an easement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The agency said last week it needed more time to talk with a Native American tribe opposed to the project before deciding on a permit for the project, raising the odds it may fall to the Trump administration to make a final decision.
“Bringing on Rick Perry would signal that the fusion between the fossil-fuel industry and the Trump White House is nearly complete,” said Jamie Henn, a spokeswoman for the environmental group 350.org.
Other jobs that Perry was reported to be under consideration include secretaries of Interior and Energy.