Heather Zichal has advised Obama since his 2008 presidential campaign and took over the role of lead energy advisor after Carol Browner left the White House in 2011. Her departure comes as the president moves to make good on a reinvigorated climate change agenda that he laid out in a speech in June.
“Heather is one of the president’s most trusted policy advisors," White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said in a statement announcing Zichal’s departure. "The president values her expertise and counsel and is grateful for her service.”
The statement did not give a reason for Zichal’s departure. Through a spokesman, Zichal declined to comment.
Zichal, the president's deputy assistant for energy and climate change, is expected to leave in the coming weeks. A White House official did not offer any possible replacements. Any successor would have to shepherd controversial initiatives the White House plans to undertake to tackle climate change in the absence of congressional action.
Rules proposed recently by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants have provoked an outcry from Republicans, business lobbies and politicians from coal states. Rules for existing power plants, certain to be even more contentious, are to be proposed in June 2014.
League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski described Zichal as a “tremendous leader” in the fight against climate change. Zichal played a role in creating tougher fuel efficiency standards, developing mercury and air pollution safeguards and the recent regulations aimed at cutting carbon pollution from power plants, Karpinski said.
“America is better off today because of her commitment to a cleaner, safer world,” Karpinski said.