The US Senate unanimously confirmed physicist Ernest Moniz, 68, as Secretary of Energy.
The professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology replaces Steven Chu, who served as energy secretary in Obama’s first term. Moniz was an energy undersecretary in the Clinton administration.
The confirmation was delayed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who was protesting Obama’s plan to cut funding from a project in his state, which will turn weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for nuclear reactors. But Graham removed his hold on the confirmation last week and said the hold had nothing to do with Moniz’s qualifications.
Having survived his first hurdle just to get confirmed, Moniz comes to the Energy Department during a time of intense activity: from Obama’s Energy Security Trust, to energy efficiency drives, to the conflict about natural gas and fracking.
The Sierra Club wasted no time congratulating Moniz and immediately lobbying him to prevent fracking. Deb Nardone, the Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas Campaign Director, issued the following statement:
“The Sierra Club and its 2.1 million members and supporters congratulate Dr. Ernest Moniz on his confirmation as the new Secretary of Energy. As Energy Secretary, Dr. Moniz will make important decisions that will shape America’s energy and climate landscape for decades to come, including the agency’s response to 24 proposed liquefied natural gas terminals that could export up to 45 percent of the nation’s total natural gas production. We urge Secretary Moniz to take a timeout on exports to complete a thorough economic and environmental assessment.
“When looking at a full picture of what increased fracking would mean for Americans’ health and future, we are confident the DOE will find that LNG exports are not in the best interest of the American public. Natural gas is a dirty, dangerous fossil fuel, which poses serious health risks due to air and water pollution from fracking and releases large quantities of methane – a gas that has more than 70 times the climate impact of carbon dioxide.
“To do what is right by the American public, we need Secretary Moniz to go all in on smart energy and climate solutions, like solar, wind, and energy efficiency and to protect our children’s health and future, while creating jobs for American workers.”
Moniz will have to make decisions about natural gas because Federal law requires the DOE to determine that natural gas exports are in the public interest before granting export permits to some countries, according to the Washington Post.