Economic policy insider to fill Podesta’s shoes 

Source: Robin Bravender, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, January 22, 2015

Brian Deese, deputy director of the White House budget office and a longtime aide to President Obama, will take over for John Podesta in February.

The new gig — which comes with the title of senior adviser — will include taking over Podesta’s portfolio on climate and energy issues, which will be among the president’s “top priorities for the remainder of his term,” a White House official said yesterday.

Deese’s appointment was first reported by the Associated Press.

As Obama’s counselor and top climate aide for the past year, Podesta has been central to shaping the administration’s environmental and energy agenda. Podesta is preparing to step down next month to join Hillary Clinton’s political team and is expected to hold a top campaign post if she formally launches a presidential bid. Council on Environmental Quality Chairman Mike Boots is also planning to leave the White House, which caused many to wonder who would take charge of those issues inside the West Wing (Greenwire, Jan. 8).

Unlike Podesta, who was White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration and founder of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, Deese isn’t a juggernaut in the energy and climate arena.

He’s now deputy director in the White House Office of Management and Budget and was previously deputy director of the National Economic Council, where his portfolio included tax policy, clean energy, manufacturing and the automotive industry, according to the White House.

Before joining the Obama administration in January 2009, he was a member of the Obama-Biden transition team and deputy economic policy director to the Obama campaign. He was also economic policy director for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and a senior analyst for economic policy at the Center for American Progress.

Despite his being a lower-profile pick for the job, Deese’s appointment was welcomed by some green groups and current and former colleagues.

Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, called Deese “kind of the whole package — policy, strategy, insight to legislative and public affairs matters” in a statement provided by the White House.

And Podesta said Deese’s experience “makes him a particularly good choice to give advice to Denis and the president about how to roll forward and add to the momentum that we began during my tenure here.”

Deese will help coordinate the administration’s approach to international climate talks in Paris later this year, and he’s scheduled to travel to India this weekend with Obama and Podesta to work on climate issues, the White House said.

Deese will continue the administration’s efforts on conservation and land management and serve as the main liaison between outside energy and climate advisers and advocates and the White House, said the White House official. He’ll also continue to focus on fiscal strategy in the administration’s upcoming budget battles with congressional lawmakers.

“This is great news for anyone that cares about the climate agenda,” said Heather Zichal, Obama’s former energy and climate adviser, who has worked with Deese on and off for the past decade.

“He’s got the trust of the president and a record of advancing initiatives to protect public health and the environment that most people work their whole lives to achieve. It’s true that John Podesta will be a tough act to follow, but with Brian at the helm and the talents of Dan Utech, Ali Zaidi and others on the team, I’m confident that the president’s climate legacy is in terrific hands,” she said.

Utech is special assistant to the president for energy and climate change; Zaidi is deputy director for energy policy.

League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski yesterday called Deese a “fantastic choice to build on [Podesta’s] incredible leadership and to keep climate change at the top of the president’s agenda.”