People on the Move

A summary of who’s in and who’s out of the nation’s top energy jobs.

President Barack Obama’s top adviser on energy and climate change, Heather Zichal, is leaving her post. During her five-year tenure, Zichal helped shape many of the Obama administration’s environmental policies, including new fuel economy standards, a doubling of renewable energy genera­tion, and the response to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The White House has not named a replacement.

Representative John Yarmuth (D-KY) has been selected to replace Ed Markey (D-MA, who was elected to the Senate) on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Yarmuth recently introduced legislation to establish the first federal health test­ing for communities near mountaintop removal mining sites.

Jon Wellinghoff, the outgoing Chair of the Federal Energy Regula­tory Commission (FERC) will join Portland-based law firm Stoel Rives. A renewable energy advocate, Wellinghoff served two terms as the state of Nevada’s first utility customers advocate.

The search for Wellinghoff’s replacement will start anew, as Ronald Binz has withdrawn his name for consideration. It’s unlikely Binz would have been confirmed as FERC chair, as every Republican (and one Democrat) on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Commit­tee publicly opposed his nomination, alleging a bias against coal and fossil fuels during his tenure at the Colo­rado Public Utilities Commission. In a written statement, Binz thanked his supporters, including Colorado Sena­tors Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, and said he will return to his energy consulting practice.

The White House announced several nominations to key administration posts. For assistant secretary for congressio­nal and intergovernmental affairs—the DOE’s top liaison to Congress—Presi­dent Obama tapped Bradley Crowell (confirmed by the Senate on October 15). Crowell, the deputy assistant secre­tary from 2010 to 2012, had been at the post on an acting basis.

The president nominated Christopher Smith for assistant secre­tary for fossil energy, a position he’s held on an acting basis since March. Smith formerly worked in business development and natural gas trading for Texaco and Chevron. Steven Croley received the nomi­nation to be the DOE’s general counsel. Croley has been a deputy White House counsel since 2012, and previously served as a senior counsel in that office, and on the White House’s Domestic Policy Council. Retired Lieutenant General Frank G. Klotz was nominated to head the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. Klotz commanded the Air Force Global Strike Command from 2009 to 2011 and since then has been the senior fellow for strategic studies and arms control at the Council on Foreign Relations.

At the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz announced two appointees who don’t require confirmation: Paula Gant for deputy assistant secretary for oil and natural gas, and Julio Friedman for deputy assistant secretary for clean coal. Gant, a PhD economist, is currently the American Gas Association’s vice presi­dent for policy and planning. Jones was formerly the chief energy technologist at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

The DOE also announced the new members of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB). Nine members of the previous board left, but total membership grew from 13 to 19. The board reports directly to Secretary Moniz, providing advice and recommendations in four major mission areas: science, energy, nuclear security, and environmental stewardship. John Deutch, former under secretary of energy, and Persis Drell, a Stanford University professor of physics, are co-chairs.

Also at the DOE, Jonathan Elkind has been nominated for assistant secre­tary for International Affairs, and Joseph Hezir for chief financial officer.

President Obama will nominate Neil Kornze to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Politico reports. Kornze, a former policy adviser to Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), has been acting director since March.

In state news, Nevada governor Brian Sandoval appointed Paul Thom­sen as director of the Nevada Office of Energy. Thomsen, a former regional representative for Harry Reid, had been the director of Ormat Technologies, a designer and builder of geothermal plants and technology.

Finally, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has appointed John B. Rhodes as presi­dent and chief executive officer. Rhodes was most recently the director of the Center for Market Innovation for the Natural Resources Defense Council. He succeeds Francis J. Murray Jr., who had been president and CEO since 2009.