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Once a critic, Perry now a defender of Energy Department

FILE - In this April 10, 2017 file photo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry speaks with a woman ahead of a G7 Energy meeting in Rome. Since becoming President Donald Trump’s energy secretary, Perry has kept a low profile and rarely has been seen publicly around Washington. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Energy Secretary Rick Perry has emerged as a strong defender of the department’s work even though he once proposed closing it.

Perry has been especially protective of the 17 national labs that conduct cutting-edge research on everything from national security to renewable energy. He’s visited several labs since taking office and has praised staff for “making a difference.”

Perry will have a chance to back up those words. He and other administration officials will be called on to defend a proposal that slashes funding for science, renewables and energy efficiency.

The energy chief expects the proposal to see significant changes in Congress. He says he hopes to make the argument to lawmakers that the Energy Department plays a vital role in America’s security and its economic well-being.

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