President Obama sees Oso mudslide devastation first-hand

Carolyn Kaster / Associated PressMarine One, carrying President Barack Obama, takes an aerial tour of the Oso mudslide site on Tuesday.

Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press
Marine One, carrying President Barack Obama, takes an aerial tour of the Oso mudslide site on Tuesday.

 

By Rikki King and Amy Nile, The Herald

EVERETT — President Barack Obama saw the devastation of the Oso mudslide for himself today, touring the area by helicopter.

Marine One flew directly over the site, giving him a view of the massive debris field and blocked North Fork Stillaguamish River

A couple of bright-yellow excavators could be seen operating below, digging in the earth as part of the ongoing effort to recover the bodies of those who died. Amid the wreckage, an American flag flew at half staff.

Marine One touched down at Arlington Airport about 1:30 p.m.

The president then headed off by motorcade to Oso.

The visit marks one month since the disaster that took at least 41 lives and destroyed part of a state highway.

The president planned to meet with victims’ families, survivors and first responders in Oso.

Obama last visited Snohomish County in 2012 to tour the Boeing Co.’s 787 production line at Paine Field. He is the sixth sitting president to set foot in the county, and the first to come here after a public tragedy.

Air Force One, a 747-200 built in Everett, touched down at Paine Field at 12:38 p.m. Those waiting to greet the president included Gov. Jay Inslee, Snohomish County Executive John Lovick, Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and U.S. Reps. Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene.

The governor, Murray and Cantwell accompanied Obama in his helicopter.

A sparse crowd gathered nearby to watch, but they were outnumbered by media and officials.

The president was expected to meet face-to-face with people who have been wrestling with the loss and challenges since the hillside fell on March 22.

Police and fire vehicles were lining up along the Arlington Airport entrance by 11:30. Snohomish County Sheriff’s Lt. Rodney Rochon leaned out his window to greet the arriving state motorcycle troopers. Black SUVs with Maryland plates followed them in onto the airfield.

Families and couples with babies and lawn chairs arrived at the airport, hoping for a glimpse of the president. They looked up as helicopters hummed overhead. Some waved at the sky. A toddler in a yellow jacket played in the grass, her mother’s watchful eye following her.

By 1:15 p.m., engines were running in the motorcade. Secret Service agents gave the vehicles a quick rub with dust rags, making them shine. They straightened the small flags on SUVs and applied a presidential seal decal.

Activity in the motorcade became still as multiple CV-22 Ospreys and other aircraft landed on the tarmac at Arlington Airport.

Firefighters from Arlington and Marysville snapped pictures as Obama got into the motorcade and headed away toward Oso.

Larsen, who grew up in Arlington, said in a prepared statement. “The President’s visit today underscores the country’s commitment to helping Oso and Darrington heal and recover. I am pleased President Obama will meet with survivors and community leaders to hear their stories. He will learn about the many challenges of rebuilding but also the incredible resilience of the people in these communities.”

Obama “will see this strength in action today,” Larsen said.

Aboard Air Force One en route to Everett, press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the Obama administration “remains focused on supporting the state and local efforts, and first responders.”

The president earlier declared a major disaster in Oso, freeing up resources.

“I think the purpose of the visit, which will include remarks delivered at the Oso firehouse, is to view firsthand the aftermath of the terrible mudslide there, and to meet directly with those who lost loved ones and have suffered so much in this terrible tragedy,” Carney said.

Officials have now identified all 41 of the people confirmed to have died in the slide. Two other people presumed killed remain missing.

Highway 530 remains blocked. A flood warning is in place for the area east of the slide along the North Fork Stillaguamish River until Thursday afternoon.

The Secret Service began arriving in Arlington, Darrington and Oso weeks ago after Obama’s visit was announced. Military aircraft could be seen flying in Marysville and Arlington over the weekend as the president’s visit approached.

Obama last was here on Feb. 17, 2012, when he toured The Boeing Co. plant in Everett and spoke to factory workers. That year was the first time in nearly two decades that a serving president visited the county.

After visiting Snohomish County, Obama is scheduled to go to Asia, with stops in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia, according to the Associated Press.

On Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that assistance had been approved for people in the Arlington, Darrington and Oso areas whose commutes to work, school and medical appointments are detoured around the slide, through Skagit County. That will happen through individual FEMA assistance applications.

Businesses that need help should contact the Small Business Administration at www.sba.gov/disaster or 800-659-2955.

Pool reports contributed to this story.

 

Preparations under way for president’s visit

Mark Mulligan / The HeraldMembers of the Washington State National Guard sort through debris south of the berm helping drain water from the mudslide site Friday morning.

Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Members of the Washington State National Guard sort through debris south of the berm helping drain water from the mudslide site Friday morning.

 

By Rikki King and Eric Stevick, The Herald

EVERETT — President Barack Obama will visit the site of the Oso mudslide today, marking one month since the disaster that took at least 41 lives and destroyed a state highway.

The president will meet with victims’ families, survivors and first responders.

Much of those conversations will be private, though some may be able to catch a glimpse of Air Force One landing at Paine Field in Everett about 12:30 p.m.

Few other details were made public Monday about the president’s itinerary.

The confirmed death toll from the slide rose to 41 Monday, with two people still listed as missing. This weekend, Harborview Medical Center in Seattle released the last of its patients injured in the slide.

A local incident-management team is expected to take over command at the site again this week, another sign that the massive operation is shifting gears.

Highway 530 remains blocked. A flood warning is in place for the area east of the slide along the North Fork Stillaguamish River until Thursday afternoon.

The Secret Service began arriving in Arlington, Darrington and Oso weeks ago after Obama’s visit was announced. Military aircraft could be seen flying in Marysville and Arlington over the weekend as the president’s visit approached.

The day will mark Obama’s second visit to Snohomish County while serving as president. He last was here on Feb. 17, 2012, when he toured The Boeing Co. plant in Everett and spoke to factory workers.

That year was the first time in nearly two decades that a serving president visited the county.

Snohomish County Executive John Lovick said he is looking forward to speaking with Obama.

“To meet the president is just going to be beyond words for me,” Lovick said Monday.

Lovick was raised in Robeline, La., where the population now is just 179 people, he said.

“I never thought I would meet a city councilman let alone the president,” Lovick said.

Many local police officers and firefighters also are expected to play a role in today’s visit. They were unable to provide details, though, deferring questions to the White House.

The presidential visit two years ago cost local police and fire departments and county government more than $30,000. The expenditures included overtime staffing and fuel.

After visiting Snohomish County, Obama is scheduled to go to Asia, with stops in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia, according to the Associated Press.

Lives continue to be disrupted by the slide.

On Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that assistance had been approved for people in the Arlington, Darrington and Oso areas whose commutes to work, school and medical appointments are detoured around the slide, through Skagit County. That will happen through individual FEMA assistance applications.

Businesses that need help should contact the Small Business Administration at www.sba.gov/disaster or 800-659-2955.

The Arlington School District has been sending a school bus to pick up students in Darrington, most of whom have opted to stay in the district for the rest of the school year.

Many students who live east of the slide are staying with family and friends in Arlington on school nights. At least two families have transferred students between the Arlington and Darrington school districts to avoid the lengthy detour, school officials said.

Also on Monday, two high-ranking prosecutors urged people to be aware of potential fraud related to the mudslide. Western Washington’s U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan and Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe warned people thinking about scamming mudslide victims or the government that they will face the full brunt of the law if they are caught.

“We will not be here to throw the book at you,” Roe said. “We will be here to throw the whole library.”

So far, there have been anecdotal reports of possible fraud, but no concrete evidence, Durkan said.

The prosecutors said fraud has been a common problem after other national disasters and they want to get in front of it in Oso.

The National Center for Disaster Fraud has documented many cases that resulted in prosecutions. In one instance, a woman was sentenced to three years in prison after falsely claiming she had a home in Mississippi that was destroyed when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. She also received temporary shelter from a charity where she stole the identities of hurricane victims and charged thousands of dollars on credit cards she took out in their names. “We will protect the victims and we will prosecute those that try to turn this tragedy into criminal profit,” Durkan said.

Among other tips, the prosecutors said people making donations should never be feel pressured to contribute and should never give personal or financial information to anyone who solicits money. They also referred anyone suspicious of fraud in relief efforts to contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or by email at disaster@leo.gov.

Meanwhile, the Washington State Patrol continues to remind people that there is no public access to view the mudslide. The roadblocks are several miles away.

The Patrol continues to turn away as many as two dozen cars a day, trooper Keith Leary said.

“The area is not a tourist attraction, and the high level of respect for those who are still missing and their families is our priority,” Leary said.

 

 

 

Obama confirms visit to Oso slide on April 22

 

Source: Marysville Globe

OSO — President Barack Obama has confirmed reports from Gov. Jay Inslee, U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene and U.S. senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell that he will visit the scene of the Oso mudslide on April 22.

On April 8, the White House issued the following statement:

“On Tuesday, April 22, President Obama will travel to Oso, Washington, to view the devastation from the recent mudslide and meet with the families affected by this disaster, as well as first responders and recovery workers. Further details about the President’s travel to Washington will be available in the coming days.”

Earlier that day, Inslee had issued a statement of his own, reporting that the President had informed him that morning of his planned visit.

“This will give the President the opportunity to see firsthand the devastation wrought by the slide, as well as the incredible community spirit flourishing in Oso, Arlington and Darrington,” Inslee said. “From the earliest days following the slide, the President has closely monitored events in the area, and shown his concerns for the victims and their families. He and his team have been important partners in the response effort, and I believe this visit will strengthen those ties, as we face the tough work ahead.”

DelBene had also been informed by Obama that same day of his upcoming visit.

“Additionally, the President informed me that he will move quickly to sign into law legislation that was recently passed by Congress, to save the historic Green Mountain Lookout near Darrington,” DelBene said, in a statement issued on April 8.

Murray and Cantwell issued a joint statement that day, expressing their appreciation to Obama for his decision to visit the area on April 22.

“We are confident that President Obama will see what we have seen: The tremendous resolve and determination of the people of Oso, Darrington and Arlington in the face of tragedy,” Murray and Cantwell said. “The President’s visit is another important step in demonstrating the federal government’s ongoing commitment to supporting the families, first responders, volunteers and businesses, as they recover from this disaster. We appreciate the decision to make major disaster resources available, and by the IRS to grant tax relief, and we’ll continue to work for the federal government to provide every resource possible for these communities.”

President Obama To Visit Oso Landslide Site

File photo of cleanup at the site of the Oso landslide site on April 3, 2014.Washington National Guard

File photo of cleanup at the site of the Oso landslide site on April 3, 2014.
Washington National Guard

 

By Chris Lehman, NW News Network

President Barack Obama is expected to visit the site of the deadly landslide in Snohomish County, Wash., later this month.

The scheduled April 22 visit would be exactly one month after the disaster struck. It’s a rare visit to the region for the President, not counting political fundraisers.

Presidents often travel to the sites of natural disasters to comfort victims and encourage first responders. It’s a tradition that dates back to at least the 1960s. At that time, Lyndon Johnson famously toured the aftermath of Hurricane Betsy in Louisiana. Historians called that trip to the swing state both a humanitarian and a political gesture.

Obama declared the Oso landslide a federal disaster area. But until now, his only public comments came during his trip in Europe last month.

“I would just ask all Americans to send their thoughts and prayers to Washington state and the community of Oso and the family and friends of those who continue to be missing,” President Obama said on March 25.

The Washington Governor’s office says the President will visit families and recovery workers during his visit to the site of the landslide.

Obama last visited Washington state last November. He attended two closed-door fundraisers for Congressional candidates. He also visited the Northwest during the 2012 presidential campaign.

5 Cons From Obama’s First Year of Second Term

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

For President Barack Obama, the first year of his second term has been filled with plenty of ups and downs for the United States but also for Indian country.

The country has seen the Obama Administration deal with a government shutdown, and the Benghazi incident in the short span that has been this second term so far.

On October 10, Indian Country Today Media Network highlighted five positives that the administration has produced so far this year.

RELATED: 5 Indian Country Pros From Obama’s First Year of Second Term

Not everything has been positive within Indian country as the administration has produced some negative effects as well. Below are five of them.

Just a Miscalculation

In March the National Congress of American Indians released a policy paper saying that tribal economic growth had already been thwarted; the National Indian Education Association said the cuts “devastate” Indian education; and Native journalist Mark Trahant estimated that the overall financial reduction for funding in Indian country totals $386 million—and that was just through the end of September. This all came out under the federal government’s sequester.

In all, the joint decision by Congress and the Obama White House, first made in 2011 and carried out on March 1, to allow an across-the-board 9 percent cut to all non-exempt domestic federal programs (and a 13 percent cut for Defense accounts)—known collectively as the sequester—amounted to a major violation of the trust responsibility relationship the federal government is supposed to have with American Indians, as called for in historic treaties, the U.S. Constitution and contemporary American policy.

While all of the cutbacks are troubling and difficult to bear, perhaps the most problematic of all were the ones happening at the Indian Health Service (IHS), housed in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. IHS Director Yvette Roubideaux and her staffers had said at various tribal meetings and in letters throughout 2011 and early 2012 that “the worst-case scenario would be a 2 percent decrease from current funding levels” for IHS, rather than the 9 percent forecasted. Then Indian country began to learn those predictions were wrong. IHS would be cut on March 1 at the same rate as every other non-protected agency.

RELATED: A Miscalculation on the Sequester Has Already Harmed Indian Health

Leaders Raise Concerns Over Budget Cuts

In April of this year, leaders throughout Indian country raised concerns about President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for 2014 and the lack of support at upholding the nation’s trust responsibility to American Indians as he has promised.

The budget, released April 10, was the president’s first time while in office to dramatically shrink his support for Indian programs in some key areas, including reductions in contract support services, education and school construction cuts, and spending on low-income housing.

RELATED: President Barack Obama’s Budget Concerns Indian Country Leaders

Maintaining the Status Quo on Education

With President Barack Obama’s first term came hope for improvements across the board of Indian education, but five years later that hope has waned and now it’s gone to a “just hang on” mentality.

Indian education was still reeling in 2009 in Obama’s first term with No Child Left Behind under the Bush regime. Native culture, learning methods, and tribal language development were largely not on the minds of federal policy makers when the law was passed.

Since then successes have been small, funding cuts have occurred under federal sequestration, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind Act) has still not been reauthorized due to gridlock in Congress.

RELATED: Flailing Grade: Indian Education Goes From Bold Plans to ‘Just Hang On’

First Native Council Meets Sans Tribal Leaders

President Barack Obama announced the establishment of the White House Council on Native American Affairs on June 26. On July 29, the first meeting of the Council met without tribal leaders present.

According to the Obama administration the Council is intended to oversee and coordinate the progress of federal agencies on tribal programs and consultation with tribes across the federal government.

Instead of being present for the meeting, Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, appointed chair of the council by Obama, asked tribal leaders to provide input via conference call held July 26. The input from the call was used to guide the meeting.

Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, may have said it best, “That’s not a real government-to-government relationship.”

RELATED: No Tribal Leaders at First Council on Native American Affairs Meeting 

Cheating Tribes on Health Costs

According to the U.S. Supreme Court 2012 ruling in Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter the federal government must pay for the full contract support costs (CSC) incurred by tribes while providing healthcare and other government services for their tribal citizens through Indian Self-Determination Act contract agreements.

The White House shared with Congress late this summer a continuing resolution budget proposal that would allow the federal government to forgo paying millions of dollars worth of CSC to tribes. The proposal authorizes the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to limit how much each tribe would be paid for CSC. Leaving tribes to pay for any CSC funding not appropriated by Congress.

Tribal leaders who have reviewed the plan say it’s a tribal cap on a tribe-by-tribe basis that would wipe out tribal legal claims and put tribes in the difficult position of being required to spend money to administer contract support programs without providing them the funding to do so.

RELATED: White House Trying to Cheat Tribes on Health Costs

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com//2013/10/24/5-cons-obamas-first-year-second-term-151892

Big News from the White House

Source: Quinault Nation

TAHOLAH, WA (6/26/13)–“This is an exciting development in advancing a new era of U.S.-Tribal relations,” exclaimed Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians regarding today’s establishment of the White House Council on Native American Affairs by President Barack Obama.

President Obama established the council in an executive order with the stated objective of promoting and sustaining “prosperous and resilient Native American tribal governments” and in recognition of a government-to-government relationship with tribes throughout the country. “This relationship is set forth in the Constitution of the United States, treaties, statutes, Executive Orders, administrative rules and regulations, and judicial decisions. Honoring these relationships and respecting the sovereignty of tribal nations is critical to advancing tribal self-determination and prosperity,” says the executive order.

“This executive order comes from a President who has taken the time to listen to the American Indian people. It is a document that recognizes our history and struggles and acknowledges our interests and objectives. On behalf of the Native people and the tribes I represent in my elected capacities, I thank him for his foresight and the intent of this very important decision,” said Sharp.          The White House Council on Native American Affairs is primarily coordination. But it could benefit Tribes by addressing the chronic problem of tribal government and tribal program underfunding which had ranged from 50 to 80 percent, said Sharp.

Sharp pointed out that the council is to coordinate its policy development through the Domestic Policy Council which tends to create yet another layer of a federal policy process and was more direct through inter-agency collaboration. There does not appear to be a mechanism for direct tribal government engagement with the Council on “tribal specific” policy and the establishment of effective inter-governmental negotiation mechanisms. The new Council appears to be solely concerned with federal funds, but may not address the conveyance of funds through states to Indian governments. Finally, President Sharp pointed out that the new council does not appear to be concerned with urban and rural Indians and Alaskan Natives and Hawaiian natives now constituting more than half of the total native population in the United States.

The Executive Order goes on to say, “As we work together to forge a brighter future for all Americans, we cannot ignore a history of mistreatment and destructive policies that have hurt tribal communities. The United States seeks to continue restoring and healing relations with Native Americans and to strengthen its partnership with tribal governments. Our more recent history demonstrates that tribal self-determination — the ability of tribal governments to determine how to build and sustain their own communities — is necessary for successful and prospering communities. We further recognize that restoring tribal lands through appropriate means helps foster tribal self-determination.”

The Executive Order establishes a national policy to ensure that the Federal Government engages in a true and lasting government-to-government relationship with federally recognized tribes in a more coordinated and effective manner, including by better carrying out its trust responsibilities. This policy is established as a means of promoting and sustaining prosperous and resilient tribal communities. “Greater engagement and meaningful consultation with tribes is of paramount importance in developing any policies affecting tribal nations,” it reads.

Among other policy direction, the order asserts that it is the policy of the United States to promote the development of prosperous and resilient tribal communities by promoting sustainable economic development, greater access to health care, improvement of tribal justice systems, greater educational opportunities and improved protection of tribal lands, natural resources and culture.

The chair of the new council will be the Secretary of Interior and members will include the heads of numerous federal executive departments, agencies and offices. The order lays out funding sources, meeting frequency, processes for making recommendations to the President and various other objectives. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has stated she will announce further details related to council as soon as tomorrow.

The formation of a White House Council on Native American Affairs recalls the Johnson and Nixon Administrations’ Council on Indian Opportunity (1968-1974) which was chaired by the Vice President of the United States, said Sharp. Like the Johnson and Nixon Council the new White House Council is intended to coordinate federal programs and the use of resources to be delivered to tribal communities. Unlike the earlier Council, the new 31 member Council does not have representatives of tribal governments. Unlike the earlier National Council, the White House Council does not have actual broader policy powers since the earlier body actually conducted meetings around the country, had the Vice President as the Chair and included officials from both the US government and tribal governments.

“It is true that the tribes have struggled tremendously through the decades in this country. But from generation to generation we have also proved our resiliency. We have endured much, and even today there are many who fail to understand us. We do appreciate President Obama’s intents and actions. But as we proceed in the improvement of the federal/tribal government-to-government relationship, it is important that tribal leadership be included in the planning and implementation process at every opportunity,” said Sharp.

“The bottom line is that it is no small thing that the president is doing here, just as it is no small thing that he has embraced Indian Country*. Again, I thank him for his wisdom, his heart and his foresight,” said Sharp.

*In May 2008, Barack Obama became the first American presidential candidate to visit the reservation of the Crow Nation. During his trip he was adopted by Hartford (now deceased) and Mary Black Eagle as a member of the nation. Hartford chose the name “Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuxshish,” or ”One Who Helps People Throughout This Land” to formally give to Obama, and the President has had the wisdom and sensitivity to embrace his adopted name and family with dignity and respect.
 
White House Council on Native American Affairs Executive Order in full:
 

Energy nominee favors all-of the-above approach

President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the Energy Department advocates an all-of-the-above approach to energy and favors natural gas as a “bridge fuel” to help the country develop clean energy.

By Matthew Daly, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the Energy Department advocates an all-of-the-above approach to energy and favors natural gas as a “bridge fuel” to help the country develop clean energy.

Ernest Moniz, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, leads the MIT Energy Initiative, a research group that gets funding from BP, Chevron and other oil industry heavyweights for academic work aimed at reducing greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. A former energy undersecretary, Moniz has advised Obama on numerous energy topics, including how to handle the country’s nuclear waste and the natural gas produced by the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing.

“Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our economy while still taking care of our air, our water and our climate,” Obama said Monday as he introduced Moniz and two other candidates for top-level positions.

Gina McCarthy, an assistant EPA administrator, was chosen to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. A 25-year veteran of environmental policy and politics, McCarthy has worked for Republicans and Democrats, including Obama’s presidential rival, Mitt Romney, who tapped her to help draft state plans for curbing the pollution linked to global warming when he was governor of Massachusetts.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell was nominated to direct the White House Office of Management and Budget. Burwell held several posts during the Clinton administration, including deputy director of the OMB. She currently heads the Wal-Mart Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the retail giant, and previously served as president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program.

Moniz, 68, whose specialty is nuclear physics, has drawn fire from some environmental groups for his views on natural gas, especially that produced from shale, a gas-rich rock formation thousands of feet underground. The gas is freed through a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which large volumes of water, plus sand and chemicals, are injected to break the rock apart. Advances in technology have unlocked billions of dollars of gas reserves, leading to a boom in production, jobs and profits, as well as concerns about pollution and public health.

At a forum last year at the University of Texas, Moniz said natural gas, which emits fewer greenhouse gases than oil or coal, is likely to be part of the nation’s energy solution for years to come.

As a nation, the U.S. “should take advantage of the time to innovate and bring down the cost of renewables” such as wind and solar, Moniz said. “The worst thing would be to get time and not use it.”

Those and other comments have made some environmental groups wary of Moniz, who also has supported development of nuclear power, along with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

“Ernest Moniz has a history of supporting dirty and dangerous energy sources like gas and nuclear power with polluting partners including BP, Shell, Chevron and Saudi Aramco,” said Courtney Abrams of the group Environment America. “Given this concerning track record, we hope Dr. Moniz will focus on clean, renewable ways to get our energy that don’t put our families and our environment in harm’s way.”

Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said Moniz “has recognized that there are environmental issues – real issues, serious issues – with natural gas.”

When Moniz says issues with natural gas are manageable, “he quickly adds that just because they are manageable doesn’t mean they are managed,” Krupp said. “To me that’s actually a very full understanding that he brings to this role.”

As energy secretary, Moniz would not have direct oversight over fracking, which is primarily left to state and local governments. Even so, the Energy Department has a huge research budget, and current Energy Secretary Steven Chu has been criticized for focusing too much on renewables and not enough on natural gas, which has emerged in recent years as an energy powerhouse that has threatened the dominance of coal, the leading source of electricity in the U.S.

Like Chu, Moniz is an academic with a doctorate in physics. Unlike Chu, who led an Energy Department lab before becoming energy secretary, Moniz has extensive political experience, having served in the Clinton administration as undersecretary of energy and as a White House science adviser.

“The really good thing about Ernie is he’s been there, so he can hit the ground running,” said Carol Browner, a former Obama energy adviser who worked with Moniz when she headed the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton.

John Deutch, an MIT colleague and former CIA director, called Moniz a “brilliant choice” to lead the Energy Department.

“I think that President Obama has chosen the most qualified individual in the United States for the position of secretary of energy,” said Deutch, who led a review of shale-gas drilling for the Energy Department in Obama’s first term.

Deutch, who has known Moniz for 30 years, said his longtime colleague has the potential to be “one of the greatest energy secretaries the country has ever had.”

Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, a conservative advocacy group, set his sights a little lower.

If confirmed, Moniz will “inherit an agency with a tarnished record for picking losers and not winners in the energy market,” Pyle said. “It is our hope that Dr. Moniz will avoid opportunities to repeat the well-documented mistakes of his predecessor and refuse the temptation to let political pressure trump sound science and economics.”

 

Associated Press writer Dina Cappiello contributed to this report.