From TheHill.com, By Ben Geman, 10/07/13 Heather Zichal is leaving her position as President Obama’s top energy and climate change adviser.
Zichal has worked behind the scenes and been a public face for President Obama’s climate and energy platform, including controversial second-term plans to limit carbon emissions from power plants.
She has been the top White House climate and energy adviser since former climate czar Carol Browner left in 2011.
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, in a statement, called Zichal “one of the President’s most trusted policy advisors.”
“She has advised President Obama for the past five years, most recently developing our bold climate action plan. Heather will be missed here at the White House, but our work on this important issue will go on,” he said.
The White House did not immediately name a replacement for Zichal, whose formal title is deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change.
She plans to take a non-government job, according to Reuters, which first reported the upcoming departure.
Prior to coming to the White House, Zichal was a policy director on President Obama’s 2008 campaign. Before that, she was legislative director for ex-Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who is now secretary of State.
Her departure in the next few weeks will mark what has been an almost complete turnover of Obama’s energy and environment team.
His first-term Energy and Interior secretaries have been replaced, and new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy began her tenure in mid-July after a long confirmation battle.
Zichal is leaving as the focus of climate and energy policy shifts to the agencies themselves.
Obama rolled out his second-term climate agenda in late June, and now the EPA, Energy Department and other agencies are writing rules and taking other steps to carry it out.
Zichal turned down an offer to become the next chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, according to The Washington Post.
Environmentalists saw Zichal as an ally in the internal White House battles over climate change policy, and have cheered Obama’s wide-ranging second-term plan, which is centered on executive steps that do not require approval from a gridlocked Congress.
She was also involved in first-term policies such as toughening auto mileage standards and imposing first-time mercury emissions limits on power plants, according to the White House.
Several groups praised her tenure on Monday.
“Heather Zichal left her fingerprints on every major Obama administration clean energy and climate change success,” said Daniel J. Weiss, who heads climate strategy for the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank with deep ties to the Obama White House.
Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke said Zichal “has been a vital voice for the environment within the White House and a key architect in drafting the policies our country needs to cut carbon pollution, address climate change and protect health.”
However, Zichal also publicly embraced energy policies that have frustrated some environmentalists.
She has promoted the White House’s “all of the above” energy strategy that touts domestic oil-and-gas production, although Republicans and industry groups contend the administration imposes too many restrictions on development on federal lands.
— This story was updated at 4:34 p.m.