UPDATE: Oct. 8, 2019:  Secretary Rick Perry rejected on Monday recent news coverage about his potential exit in November. “One of these days [the media] will probably get it right, but it’s not today, it’s not tomorrow, it’s not next month,” he told reporters. At the same time, he said he encouraged the president to talk to Ukranian leaders about importing U.S. oil.

Dive Brief:

  • Energy Secretary Rick Perry will not resign from the administration within the next month, he said at a press conference on Monday addressing Thursday reports from the Washington Post and Politico.
  • Perry has been pulled into the Congressional impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump based on his recent travels to Ukraine. Senate Foreign Relations Ranking Member Robert Menendez, D-N.J., questioned the circumstances and details of Perry’s May 2019 trip for the Ukrainian president’s inauguration in a letter on Tuesday, requesting an official response no later than Friday.
  • Trump told House minority leaders on Friday that Perry had asked him to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to talk about a natural gas plant, sources told Axios.

Dive Insight:

The Trump administration has led a campaign to increase U.S. energy exports, particularly to Europe, to offset exports from Russia. As Department of Energy Secretary and a member of Trump’s Cabinet since 2017, Perry has been an active part of that cause.

While part of those efforts included travel to Ukraine, no evidence has emerged to show Perry’s involvement in the current controversy related to that country.

“Secretary Perry absolutely supported and encouraged the President to speak to the new President of Ukraine to discuss matters related to their energy security and economic development,” Energy Department spokesperson Shaylyn Hynes said in a statement.

Perry went to Lithuania on Monday night, according to Hynes, to meet with European energy leaders from countries relying on Russia for access to oil, including Ukraine, to discuss the need for improved regional energy security.

Perry used the term “freedom gas” to denote U.S. exports to parts of the world that would otherwise rely on a Russian supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The branding has been criticized by clean energy advocates, buthailed by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee.

Perry has been a prominent advocate of LNG throughout his career, as the natural gas extraction industry underwent large growth when he served as Governor of Texas. Perry has touted the fuel as a cleaner emissions source compared to burning oil or coal.

He joined the administration seeking to champion the U.S. oil and gas industry. However, he also played a key role in supporting the nuclear fleet, including promoting the deployment of small nuclear reactors and supporting a proposal to create more federal incentives for existing nuclear and coal power plants.

Several investor-owned utilities have opposed the Department of Energy’sreview of baseload generation efforts, ordered by Perry in 2017. The Energy Department’s efforts to subsidize nuclear and coal eventually pitted Perry against gas generators and other natural gas stakeholders.

Regarding reports of Perry’s resignation, the Department of Energy has emphasized that no official announcements have been made.

“While the Beltway media has breathlessly reported on rumors of Secretary Perry’s departure for months, he is still the Secretary of Energy and a proud member of President Trump’s Cabinet,” Energy Department spokesperson Shaylyn Hynes told Politico and the Washington Post. “One day the media will be right. Today is not that day.”

Perry’s resignation, expected at the end of November, would be the latest of several departures from Trump’s top advisers. Perry is expected to return to the private sector, according to The Washington Post. Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette is expected to replace Perry, three sources told Politico.