Sierra Club calls for Perry to resign over sexual assault comments

Sierra Club calls for Perry to resign over sexual assault comments
© Camille Fine

The Sierra Club said Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryPartisan politics at independent agency draws bipartisan rebuke Overnight Energy: House panel approves park funding, offshore drilling bills | Green group putting M into races | Perry applauds Russia boosting oil production Perry welcomes efforts by Russia, OPEC to boost oil production MORE should resign over his Thursday statement that fossil fuels can help prevent sexual assault.

"It was already clear that Rick Perry is unfit to lead the Department of Energy, but to suggest that fossil fuel development will decrease sexual assault is not only blatantly untrue, it is an inexcusable attempt to minimize a serious and pervasive issue,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement.

“He does not deserve to hold office another day with these twisted ideas, and he should resign from his position immediately before he causes any more damage."

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At an event on Thursday morning, Perry said fossil fuels will be important for electrifying parts of Africa and that the expansion of energy there can help reduce sexual assaults.

“When the lights are on, you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, on these types of acts,” he said.

“From the standpoint of how you really affect people’s lives, fossil fuels are going to play a role in that. I happen to think it’s going to play a positive role.”

The Department of Energy says Perry’s statement was meant to highlight the way electricity will improve the lives of people in Africa.

“The secretary was making the important point that while many Americans take electricity for granted there are people in other countries who are impacted by their lack of electricity,” Shaylyn Hynes, an agency spokeswoman, said.

In Africa for an energy conference last week, “one person told him about how light can be a deterrent to sexual assault and security in remote areas,” Hynes said. “Another leader told him about how women in their country have to go to the store every day for a new carton of milk because they don't have a working refrigerator. Those powerful stories stuck with him and that is what he was sharing with the crowd in Washington today.”

The Sierra Club has been critical of many Trump administration officials.

It has at least twice suggested that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittTrump admin appeals ruling ordering EPA to ban pesticide Government watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels MORE should resign, over congressional testimony and his position on the agency’s ability to regulate carbon emissions. Last week, it called for a congressional investigation into any potential ties between Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeUS to approve import of black rhino killed in hunt Zinke must change direction and support conservation Energy development will likely land one bird on the Endangered Species list MORE and a since-canceled electricity contract in Puerto Rico.

The Sierra Club also said both Pruitt and Zinke should resign over chartered air travel they have taken.

—Updated at 3:07 p.m.