Biden actions: Rejoins Paris Climate Accord, names new DOE acting secretary, FERC chair

In addition to presumably helping facilitate new U.S. President Joseph Biden Jr.’s executive order on rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, the U.S. Department of Energy announced new leadership at the top.

The new president’s arrival also pushed changes at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, with commissioner Richard Glick replacing Trump appointee James Danly as chairman. Danly served as chair for only two months after he was appointed to replaced Neil Chatterjee in that role.

Danly stays onboard as a commissioner.

At DOE, David G. Huizenga will serve as Acting Secretary of Energy, succeeding Trump appointee Dan Brouillette. Huizenga was most recently Associate Principal Deputy Administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration and has been a career employee at DOE since 1987. He is known as an expert on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear waste management issues.

President Biden announced he is reentering the U.S. into the global agreement on tackling the climate crisis via changes in energy policy. President Trump rescinded the Obama Administration entry into the Paris agreement in 2017.

“We are going to combat climate change in a way we have not done so far,” Biden said.

Trump’s severing of the Paris accord and rejection of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan proposed emission rules relaxed pressure on states. Utilities, however, are seeking to reduce carbon emissions on their own, with many announced carbon-neutral goals by 2050.

On the DOE appointments, Tarak Shah will serve as Chief of Staff, becoming the first person of color, first Indian-American and first openly LGBTQ person to serve in that position at DOE.

“These talented and diverse public servants will deliver on President Biden’s goal to tackle the climate crisis and build an equitable clean energy future,” said Shah. “Guided by their expertise, breadth of experience, and following the science, these Department of Energy appointees will contribute to creating a clean energy economy that produces millions of good-paying American jobs and safeguards the planet for future generations.”

Kelly Speakes-Backman, who has been chief executive officer of the U.S. Energy Storage Association for several years, will move into a DOE role as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Speakes-Backman has spent more than 20 years working in energy and environmental issues in the public, NGO and private sectors. In 2019, she was honored by The Cleanie Awards as Woman of the Year.

Speakes-Backman also was a “luminary” speaker at DISTRIBUTECH International in 2020.

See our DISTRIBUTECH interview with Kelly Speakes-Backman

Click here to see the other new DOE senior leader appointees by Biden.

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