Muckraker: Grist on Politics

With the nation’s attention turned to the financial crisis, the White House today announced that the president intends to nominate F. Chase Hutto III, a senior aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, as assistant secretary for policy and international affairs within the Energy Department.

Hutto, who has been a leading opponent of environmental regulations within the administration, would be in charge of the department’s policies on climate change — if he is confirmed by the Senate. According to the DOE’s website, in this post Hutto would serve as the “primary advisor to the Secretary and the Department on energy and technology policy development,” oversee policy analysis, and lead the DOE’s international activities.


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His name was first floated as the top candidate for the post last month. The Washington Post reported that Hutto “played a prominent behind-the-scenes role in shaping the administration’s environmental policies for several years,” and helped “to rewrite rules affecting the air that Americans breathe and the waters that oil tankers traverse.” Throughout his tenure in the administration, he has opposed regulations on industry, according to those who worked closely with him.


His record includes attempting to scale back rules proposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that would protect endangered North Atlantic right whales from deadly run-ins with sea vessels. He also advocated for an expedited decision last year for Shell Oil as it petitioned NOAA for an “incidental harassment authorization” that would allow the company to injure or kill a small number of marine mammals in the process of drilling for oil and gas drilling off the coast of Alaska. Shell eventually withdrew the request.


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Hutto also reportedly opposed tightening federal rules for ozone and limiting mercury emissions from power plants.


Earlier this month, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), both members of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, urged Bush not to nominate Hutto to the post. The two issued a statement today condemning the selection.


“Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse. A Cheney aide who represents everything that is wrong with the direction of our energy and environmental policies is now helping lead the Department of Energy,” said Menendez in a statement. “This is highly concerning to those of us who want to end our addiction to oil, create jobs, lower energy prices, and reduce global warming pollution.”


Since the Senate is pretty busy right now, it’s not likely that they’ll take action on Hutto’s nomination. And even if he is appointed, there are only 116 days left in the administration. Not that anyone’s counting.