US President-elect Donald Trump's transition team disowned a controversial questionnaire that they had sent to the Department of Energy asking for names of federal government employees who worked on climate change issues with President Barack Obama.

The transition team on Wednesday (14 December) said in a statement "The questionnaire was not authorized or part of our standard protocol. The person who sent it has been properly counseled."

This comes after on Tuesday, the Department of Energy spokesperson Eben Burnham-Snyder hit back in a statement that the 74-point questionnaire "left many in our workforce unsettled," and that the officials from energy department "respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department".

The statement further read "We will be forthcoming with all publicly available information with the transition team. We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team,"

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey told CNN on Wednesday "Any employee of the Department of Energy that has been working on climate science over the last 8 years is actually doing their job. It would be irresponsible not to deal with the issue. And now what we're seeing is an inquiry by the Trump Transition Team that goes right to the heart of the integrity of the science."

Christine Todd Whitman, who was the head of the Environmental Protection Agency under George W Bush, told Deutsche Welle in an interview "Frankly, that scares me. There is no reason to have these lists. I can't imagine why you would use them."

The White House backed the energy department's decision to not give out information requested by an unnamed official from the transition team.

Josh Earnest, White House Press Secretary said "There were reports about what certainly could have been an attempt to target civil servants, career federal government employees. Their work transcends the term of any one president. That's by design," and added that it would erode effective policy making at the agency if the staff has to be overhauled with each new administration.