United States

United States

Jewell nominated as top US offshore wind regulator

Three central figures at DoE, DoI and EPA soon to depart

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President Barack Obama has nominated Sally Jewell, chief executive of outdoor goods company, REI, to lead the Department of the Interior.

A former engineer with Mobil Oil and a nearly two-decade veteran of the banking industry, Jewell has been selected by Obama to replace Ken Salazar, who will leave by the end of March. The US Senate must approve Jewell’s nomination, with news outlet USA Today predicting that she is expected to pass without much objection.

Jewell’s history of vocal environmental advocacy and her position on the board of the National Parks Conservation Association may worry some Republicans keen on oil and gas exploration.

Outgoing DoI head, Salazar, has overseen significant efforts to encourage the emergence of an offshore wind industry. During his tenure, he signed the first offshore wind farm lease, for the 468MW Cape Wind project, and created a programme for designating wind energy areas in federal waters. This should culminate in the first competitive lease auctions later this year.

Salazar is one of several top US regulators with a role to play in offshore wind that will soon leave post. Energy secretary Steven Chu announced his resignation last week after four years of record government spending on clean energy, much of it enabled by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also called the stimulus bill. In 2011, Chu’s department allocated $42m to 42 offshore wind research and development projects, and last December it awarded the first tranche of $168min Advanced Technology Demonstration offshore funding grants.

Obama is considering one of his science advisors, physicist Ernest Moniz, as Chu’s replacement, according to Reuters. Chu will remain in post until at least the end of this month.

Meanwhile, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Lisa Jackson is also stepping down. Her office’s impact on offshore wind development is less direct, though under her leadership the EPA has vigorously pursued regulations on fossil fuel-emitting power stations. News reports have named Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, as a top contender for the job.

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