New admin should form office to coordinate strategy — report

Source: Hannah Northey and Arianna Skibell, E&E reporters • Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Former top administration officials from both Republican and Democratic presidents today called for the next White House to create a new federal body to coordinate the nation’s disparate energy policy.

The Center for New American Security released a blueprint for the first 100 days of the next administration that includes the creation of a “mechanism” to convene various federal agencies handling all aspects of energy and environmental matters and develop policy for the next president.

“We need somebody who … has closer access to the president and [can] do the work of both providing the advice the president will need, he or she, and executing on those priorities,” Robert McNally, a co-author of the report and former international energy adviser under President George W. Bush, said during a briefing today.

“We think we need a serious commitment by the White House to high-level interagency coordination of energy policy,” said McNally, currently a senior fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. “We need a new position there.”

David Goldwyn, who served as the State Department’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, also penned the report. Goldwyn also worked as assistant secretary of Energy under President Bill Clinton.

Such high-level coordination is needed because energy policy is currently handled in a diffuse matter with no one person in charge, Goldwyn said. Goldwyn said that while he and McNally didn’t agree on all aspects of the strategy, he would like to see a special council take on energy issues, citing the National Economic Council and National Security Council as predecessors.

“What happened the last six years in the Obama administration is that you had energy and environment equities that were divided among the Domestic Policy Council, the National Security Council and the National Economic Council. So there was no one in charge,” he told E&E News.

Goldwyn referenced the Obama administration’s 2008 Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy that was co-chaired and later combined with another presidential office in 2011.

“It only did climate, it didn’t really do energy,” Goldwyn said. “So essentially I would suggest reconstituting something like that, but with a single head instead of two heads to try and drive this agenda because it’s challenging and it’s not a part-time job.”

The Energy Department, U.S. EPA, the Interior Department and other agencies that handle these issues would all be members of the council, he added.

The report also calls on the next president to issue an executive order to provide guidance on timelines for all permitting of new infrastructure and to make the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — not the State Department — in charge of permitting cross-border oil pipelines like Keystone XL. Doing so would prevent the process from becoming overly political, according to the report.

Goldwyn and McNally also said the next president should reverse the decision to sell off more than 160 million barrels of oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve for budgetary purposes.