Obama appoints new energy and climate change advisor

Smoke rises from the stacks of the La Cygne Generating Station coal-fired power plant in La Cygne, Kan. Dan Utech has been named as President Obama¿s new advisor on energy and climate change, a White House official said.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)
<i>This post has been updated. See below for details.</i>

WASHINGTON — Dan Utech, a long-time Washington insider, has been named as President Obama’s new advisor on energy and climate change, a White House official said.

Utech came to the Obama administration in 2010 and currently serves as the White House deputy director for climate. He will replace the departing energy and climate advisor, Heather Zichal, whose last day is Friday.

For the last 3 1/2 years, Utech has played a significant role in developing and implementing much of the President’s energy and climate agenda. In his new position, which he will begin Monday, Utech will also have to explain to the public the administration’s stand on often-contentious energy and environmental issues, such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline and new rules to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.


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Environmentalists welcomed Utech’s appointment. “Dan Utech is a leader, a seasoned expert, and the right person for this critical energy and climate post,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “He’s well-suited to carry forward the policies our country needs to expand clean energy, cut carbon pollution, address climate change and protect health.”

[Updated, 1:44 p.m. Nov. 8: Some members of the business community , like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, declined to comment on Utech’s new role. Others, like American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard, said they hoped to have a productive relationship with Utech.

“We had a constructive working relationship with Heather Zichal and wish her well as she moves on,” Gerard said. “ We look forward to working with Dan Utech to promote the U.S. energy revolution that is creating jobs, sending more revenue to our government and making America more energy secure.”]

Utech has experience with Congress that could prove helpful as he champions the White House’s energy and climate priorities. Before joining the administration, he worked in the Senate for 10 years, on the staff of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee and as Hillary Clinton’s top advisor on energy and environment issues. During the transition to Obama’s first term, Utech helped Secretary of Energy Steven Chu through the Senate confirmation process and then served as a senior advisor in the Energy Department.

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