Wyden names senior energy committee staff for 113th Congress

Source: Phil Taylor, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the incoming chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today announced his senior committee staff, which includes nearly a dozen new faces.

Joining the committee this year will be Joshua Sheinkman, Michele Miranda, Isaiah Akin, Drew Johnston, Dave Berick, Peter Gartrell and Keith Chu, who all come from Wyden’s personal office. The committee also welcomes Todd Wooten, Dan Adamson, Meghan Conklin, Cisco Minthorn and Samantha Offerdahl, each of whom comes from other committees, member offices or advocacy groups.

Returning staff members include Sam Fowler, Patty Beneke, David Brooks, Kevin Rennert, Allen Stayman and Sara Tucker.

“The committee has a tremendous combination of veteran committee staffers and dedicated newcomers to work on issues that can give a major boost to the U.S. economy and environment, as well as families’ pocketbooks,” Wyden said this afternoon in a statement.

Wyden this year will replace retired Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), who had chaired the committee since 2007 and played an integral role in passing two major energy bills in 2005 and 2007 and a sweeping 2009 omnibus public lands bill.

Sheinkman, 53, will become Wyden’s chief of staff after serving as the Oregon senator’s legislative director since 2006 (E&ENews PM, Dec. 13, 2012). Sheinkman replaces Bob Simon, who had served as the top aide to the committee’s Democrats for the past 13 years.

Wyden retained Fowler as the committee’s chief counsel. Fowler has served the committee since 1991, helping craft major pieces of energy legislation with a focus on nuclear issues. Most recently, Fowler helped Bingaman write a bill to revamp the country’s stalled nuclear waste program, but the measure was bottled up in committee.

Fowler first came to Capitol Hill in 1985 when Arizona Democratic Rep. Morris Udall hired him to handle nuclear power and waste issues, and he has worked with ENR since 1991.

Also returning to the committee is Brooks, a 15-year ENR veteran who specializes in federal lands issues and played an integral role in the passage of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which designated more than 2 million acres of wilderness and established three new national park units, a new national monument, three new national conservation areas, and more than 1,000 miles of national wild and scenic rivers, among other provisions.

Brooks in the past has led negotiations with his Republican counterparts on the committee in cobbling together packages of lands bills, an effort that was ultimately unsuccessful in the gridlocked 112th Congress.

Adamson comes to the committee from the Solar Energy Industries Association, where he served as vice president of regulatory affairs and counsel. Adamson previously served as a partner at the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, representing clients before Congress, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and courts, according to his SEIA bio. He got his start as an aide for the House Natural Resources Committee.

Conklin, a member of Wyden’s senior professional staff, has experience as a high-level political appointee at the Interior Department and Fish and Wildlife Service and as a staff member for the House Natural Resources Committee when Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) was the chairman.

Conklin helped lead the effort to withdraw 1 million acres of federal lands from mining claims around Grand Canyon National Park and wrote language for a House bill that sought to provide dedicated funding for emergency wildland fires, according to her public LinkedIn resume.

Most recently, she was an advocate for the Forest Stewardship Council, a group that certifies working forests that meet certain sustainability goals.

Also joining from Wyden’s personal office is Miranda, who is expected to cover forestry issues and will take on many of the duties of Scott Miller, who left several months ago to teach at the University of Colorado Law School.

Berick, a former Wyden aide, will be chief investigator.

Gartrell, who will serve as an investigator, comes from Wyden’s personal staff and previously served on the Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources Committee. He is a former energy reporter who wrote for Platts and the Gillette, Wyo., News Record.

Chu, a former Platts reporter who joined Wyden’s personal staff last year, will serve as press secretary, replacing longtime committee veteran Bill Wicker (E&E Daily, Dec. 21, 2012).