The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed President Barack Obama’s nomination of physicist Ernest Moniz to be secretary of energy.
Moniz, who is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was approved by a vote of 97 to 0. Moniz will head the Department of Energy (DOE) as successor to fellow professor Steven Chu, who left earlier in 2013.
In response to the confirmation, the Sierra Club released a statement congratulating the new department head while urging him to reconsider his position on hydraulic fracturing as well as on proposed liquefied natural gas terminals in the U.S. that will facilitate the export of American natural gas.
Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association said her organization was pleased at the news of Moniz’s unanimous confirmation.
“America needs someone in that cabinet position who understands the impact of federal energy policy on the electric bills that consumers pay every month. We are hopeful that Secretary Moniz will take the consumers’ interests, especially low-income and rural consumers, into account when setting policy and will work actively with a wide array of stakeholders, including electric cooperatives, as he begins to put his mark on federal energy policy,” Emerson said in a release.
The Nuclear Energy Institute issued a statement of congratulations, expressing approval of the Moniz pick. A nuclear physicist by training, Moniz is publicly expressed strong support for nuclear energy and for research into advanced energy technologies in the past in the past.
Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, commended DOE and the Obama administration for their ongoing efforts to strengthen the level of coordination between the electric power industry and the government, particularly in response to emergencies.
The confirmation comes after weeks of uncertainty, during which Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina, placed a hold on Moniz’ nomination in order to project a pet project in his home state.
Graham was concerned about language in the Obama administration’s proposed 2014 budget suggesting the government look at possibly shutting down the mixed oxide fuel processing facility in South Carolina, part of a national program to turn weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes.