Muckraker: Grist on Politics

The Washington Post reports today that F. Chase Hutto III, a senior aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, is likely to be appointed as a key official at the Energy Department.

Hutto has been a leading opponent of environmental regulations within the administration. A promotion to assistant secretary for policy and international affairs would put him in charge of the department’s policies on climate change. The DOE website says the assistant secretary serves as “primary advisor to the Secretary and the Department on energy and technology policy development,” oversees policy analysis, and leads the DOE’s international activities.

From the Post:

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F. Chase Hutto III has played a prominent behind-the-scenes role in shaping the administration’s environmental policies for several years, the officials said, helping to rewrite rules affecting the air that Americans breathe and the waters that oil tankers traverse. In every instance, according to both his allies and opponents, he has challenged proposals that would place additional regulations on industry.

According to those who have worked with Hutto, he has been a strong supporter of free-market policies, arguing in interagency meetings against greenhouse-gas reductions and serving as a key contact in the administration for the oil and gas industries, the Post reports. Jason Burnett, former associate deputy administrator of the U.S. EPA, says Hutto is “naturally and philosophically opposed to regulation.”

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Hutto’s recent efforts included 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.

According to the Post, 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. Hutto also reportedly opposed tightening federal rules for ozone and limiting mercury emissions from power plants.

It’s not clear yet whether Bush will formally nominate Hutto to the post or if he’ll serve in an “acting capacity” until the end of the the Bush administration. Which is in 153 days, for those interested.