Several news outlets are reporting that Obama’s top climate advisor, Heather Zichal, is stepping down in the next few weeks. She’s been advising Obama since 2008, having taken over the top climate and energy post from Carol Browner in 2011.
It’s not at all remarkable that she’s leaving–professionals can rotate through Washington pretty quickly, and it looks as if her best days may already be behind her.
Zichal’s main accomplishment is helping to craft the energy plan that President Obama announced in June. Part of the plan has to do with promoting innovation, but with Congress in deadlock, as evidenced clearly now by the government shutdown, there’s little chance that the White House would have much chance with new legislation promoting R&D or other policies affecting climate.
Other than that, the plan basically involves waiting around for the EPA to issue regulations on power plants (see “Will Obama’s Climate Policy Spur New Energy Technologies?” and “Obama Orders EPA to Regulate Power Plants in Wide-Ranging Climate Plan”). Not much action there. It will take years, especially for the regulations on existing power plants. So it’s not surprising she’s leaving now to find something else to do.
A White House statement confirmed the reports but did not say what Zichal is planning next.