Shake-ups add to climate, energy lineup

Source: Robin Bravender, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2014

There’s a new energy and climate team in the White House.

Dan Utech, President Obama’s chief energy and climate adviser, announced this week that he’ll have two new deputies as his office plows ahead with the administration’s Climate Action Plan.

Rick Duke is the new deputy director for climate policy, and Ali Zaidi is the deputy director for energy policy.

Duke is also associate director for energy and climate change at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and he’ll continue in that role, according to an email from Utech to White House staff obtained by Greenwire.

“Rick has been contributing significantly to our climate work already, and, in this expanded role at [the Domestic Policy Council], Rick will focus on implementation of the mitigation measures included in the president’s Climate Action Plan — as well as the intersection of our domestic actions with America’s international leadership on climate,” Utech said.

Duke joined CEQ in 2012 after more than three years as deputy assistant secretary for climate policy at the Energy Department. He also did a stint at the Natural Resources Defense Council, where he was director of the Center for Market Innovation.

In his new full-time gig, Zaidi “will handle a wide range of policy issues related to supply of and demand for energy — including policies that reduce our dependence on foreign oil by promoting responsible federal-lands production and adoption of alternative fuels; and policies that create jobs by advancing research and deployment of clean energy and energy efficiency technologies — as well as the intersection of these issues with the President’s Climate Action Plan,” Utech said.

Zaidi previously worked as the White House’s liaison with agencies across the government, including those that deal with energy and climate issues, and has been a member of the energy and climate team at Utech’s Domestic Policy Council.

He’s steadily climbed the ranks since joining the Obama campaign in 2007. He got his first administration job at the Office of Management and Budget in 2009 before becoming special assistant to former Energy Secretary Steven Chu in 2010. He joined the White House as a policy adviser in 2011.

White House staffers Roque Sanchez and Molly Kawahata also will be working on energy and climate issues, Utech said.

The appointments are part of some major White House staff shake-ups on environment and energy issues. Utech got the job late last year when Obama’s longtime aide, Heather Zichal, left the post. Obama’s new counselor John Podesta has announced that energy and climate will be central to his work in the White House, and CEQ Chief of Staff Michael Boots will be taking over for outgoing Chairwoman Nancy Sutley next week until a replacement is confirmed.