Moniz team strives to make agency a policy heavyweight

Source: Robin Bravender and Katherine Ling, E&E reporters • Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has brought in a raft of new staff members — including some of his former colleagues and old friends — to help him run the Department of Energy.
He’s also overhauling DOE’s organizational chart in a bid to make the department a bigger policy player in President Obama’s second term.A top priority for Moniz this year is the “Quadrennial Energy Review,” a high-profile report that will be part of Obama’s climate agenda and is intended to serve as a road map for federal energy policy across agencies.

There will also be a continued emphasis on Obama’s “all of the above” approach to energy, including a push for ways to cut carbon emissions from fossil fuels and more support for advanced nuclear technology. DOE announced billions of dollars in additional funding in total to support both efforts at the end of last year (Greenwire, Dec. 10, 2013).

Energy efficiency — another key component of the climate push — is expected to linger at center stage as DOE tries to update lagging appliance standards and focuses on U.S. competitiveness in manufacturing. Renewable energy will remain an important focus of DOE, although dwindling budgets will likely shift the emphasis from breakthrough technologies to public-private partnerships and research to lower the cost of technology.

Here are five DOE staffers who figure to have roles in guiding agency efforts this year.

Melanie Kenderdine, director of the Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis and counselor to Moniz

Kenderdine tops many DOE insiders’ lists of most influential agency staffers. She and Moniz both held key positions at DOE during the Clinton administration and went on to work together in top posts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative. Kenderdine was among Moniz’s first hires after his confirmation as secretary, and he appointed her head of the office that oversees Moniz’s pet project, the “Quadrennial Energy Review.”

Her team includes veterans of the failed congressional efforts to pass climate legislation from both chambers of Congress, a former top State Department climate negotiator, well-known scientists and other policy experts.

The final report, she has said, is due next January and will focus on climate change, power lines and pipeline financing, and what role the cash-strapped federal government will play in financing energy infrastructure (Greenwire, July 25).

Kevin Knobloch, chief of staff

Knobloch hasn’t worked with Moniz nearly as long as Kenderdine has, but is officially the secretary’s top aide. He’s in the inner circle with Moniz and Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman, and he’s considered certain to have an impact on all major decisions at DOE.

Before Moniz selected him as chief of staff last year, Knobloch was president of the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists for a decade. He’s led UCS delegations to the U.N. international climate negotiations, worked as the group’s legislative director for arms control and national security, and spent a stint on Capitol Hill working for Democrats in the House and Senate.

He’s spent years building up policy experience on climate change, renewable energy technologies and nuclear weapons.

Jonathan Levy, deputy chief of staff

Levy has been climbing his way up in the energy policy arena since the launch of the Obama administration. When his former boss, then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) moved to the White House to become chief of staff in 2009, Levy moved from Capitol Hill to DOE, becoming deputy assistant secretary in the congressional affairs office and then a senior adviser to the deputy secretary.

By early 2013, he had become one of the agency’s highest-ranking officials as deputy chief of staff.

His job entails working with other senior staffers to oversee the management of the agency’s $25 billion annual budget and workforce of about 115,000 government employees and contractors. He had enough clout in the agency that he was briefly appointed acting chief of staff under Moniz before Knobloch came aboard.

In addition to knowing his way around DOE and Capitol Hill, Levy has White House connections. He spent several months working on detail as an adviser to the Domestic Policy Council. All that experience will come in handy for the DOE leadership team, particularly since many of Moniz’s top staffers have been there less than a year.

Jonathan Pershing, EPSA principal deputy director and deputy assistant secretary for climate change in the Office of International Affairs

Pershing, who has high-ranking positions in two critical offices, joined DOE early last year after spending the first term of the Obama administration as a lead State Department negotiator on international climate policy.

He signed on to help lead climate policies in the agency’s international affairs shop, and DOE later announced that he would continue in that role as well as serving as Kenderdine’s deputy in the new energy policy office.

“In these roles, he both supports DOE’s domestic policy agenda, as well as leads on international climate policy for the department,” according to the agency’s website. He has connections throughout the international and domestic climate policy arenas.

Before he joined the State Department in 2009 to work as deputy for Todd Stern, the special envoy for climate change, he spent six years as the director of the Climate, Energy and Pollution Program at the World Resources Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank; spent five years as the head of the Environment Division at the International Energy Agency in Paris; and for nearly a decade in the 1990s served the science adviser and deputy director of the Office of Global Change in the U.S. Department of State.

Michael Goo, EPSA senior adviser

Goo is one of the newest hires to Kenderdine’s office, coming from EPA to help implement the sweeping energy report.

He brings experience and connections from nearly every government sector and from the advocacy world.

Prior to joining DOE, he headed EPA’s policy shop, where he advised the agency’s brass and helped to guide regulations through the White House review process. Before that, he was staff director of the now-defunct House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

He also served as the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate legislative director and worked for two congressional panels with jurisdiction over climate legislation — the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.