As Administration Transitions, President Obama and Executive Agencies Recap Achievements

On January 9, Science Magazine published an online editorial by President Obama entitled “The Irreversible Momentum of Clean Energy.”  In it, President Obama addresses the decoupling of economic growth from energy sector emissions, private sector initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, power sector markets in which gas prices are currently—and are projected to remain—cheaper than coal, and global momentum to reduce emissions.  President Obama opines that “the trend toward a cleaner power sector can be sustained regardless of near-term federal policies.”

This editorial follows last week’s release of the President’s letter to the American People which discusses his Administration’s achievements and presents a series of exit memoranda written by his Cabinet members, including the heads of EPA, DOE, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Commerce, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.  In those memos, the agency heads present a summary of the agencies’ major actions over the last eight years, “their vision for the country’s future, and the work that remains in order to achieve that vision.”

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s exit memo discusses, among other things, steps that the agency has taken to regulate carbon dioxide and other air emissions from power plants—from issuing the agency’s greenhouse gas (GHG) endangerment finding in 2009 to promulgating the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for power plants and the Clean Power Plan.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz’s exit memo highlights DOE’s investments in clean energy research and development, in modernizing the electric power grid, and in wind, large-scale solar, advanced nuclear power, and carbon capture and storage technologies.  He also discusses the growth in clean energy sector jobs.  His vision for the future includes doubling investment in clean energy research and development, continuing to diversify America’s energy supplies, and investing in modernizing America’s energy infrastructure.

Exit memos from the Department of the Interior, the Department of Commerce, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy also address the outgoing administration’s energy-related initiatives.  Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s exit memo speaks to the Department’s approval of 60 commercial-scale renewable energy projects on public lands and development of an offshore wind leasing and permitting program.  Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s exit memo mentions Commerce’s community-focused Climate Resilience Toolkit, and discusses her belief that “[p]olicymakers can accelerate job growth by providing financial incentives for states to exceed clean energy goals, and by facilitating the creation of new projects, infrastructure, and industries to match regional energy needs and existing industrial ecosystems.”  And Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren’s exit memo mentions the Office’s efforts to advance climate science and information, its $90 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act investment in low carbon energy, and its efforts to address climate change’s impacts on national security.

The 28 Cabinet exit memos can be found here.

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