Turk is one of the growing cadre of officials across the federal bureaucracy who will now be tasked with transitioning the U.S. economy toward less polluting forms of energy while still keeping blue-collar jobs intact.
“Growing up in a small Midwestern town, I saw up close our community struggle when the local steel mill downsized and laid off more and more workers,” the Rock Falls, Ill., native said in a statement provided to The Energy 202 about his nomination, which is expected to be made public later today.
“If confirmed, I’ll carry this experience to my work at the Department of Energy to make sure we listen to the voices of workers and families impacted by changing economic conditions so the clean energy future we build creates good-paying jobs in all corners of our country,” Turk said.
Turk has worn many hats in the federal government.
Under President Barack Obama, he helped coordinate international clean energy efforts for the Energy Department. He also worked for the State Department as a deputy envoy for climate change and at the National Security Council.
And on Capitol Hill, he worked for Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), a lead author of a major cap-and-trade bill, and Biden himself when he was a senator from Delaware. He is currently deputy executive director at the International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental energy watchdog based in Paris.
Born in Quito, Ecuador, Turk had his first interaction with the Energy Department after he was selected to represent Illinois at a summer camp at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York.
Given his résumé, Turk may help in the Biden administration's efforts to press other countries to cut emissions. Turk's old boss under Obama, former energy secretary Ernest Moniz, played key roles in brokering both the Iran nuclear deal and Paris climate agreement.
“So much of what the DOE does has an international focus these days,” said Dan Reicher, an assistant secretary of energy in the Clinton administration.
Yet in departments as big as the Energy Department, the deputy often manages daily operations while the secretary travels and acts as the agency's public face. Jason Bordoff, founding director of Columbia University's Center for Global Energy Policy, said Turk has the experience around Washington to do well in that role.
“He knows the Hill, DOE, and the White House, as well as all the international energy players,” said Bordoff, who worked with Turk for Obama's National Security Council. “He would be an immensely effective partner to Secretary Granholm.”
The Biden team is also taking over as the energy industry still reels from the drop in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic. Turk testified to Congress last year that the viral outbreak caused "the biggest shock to global energy systems since at least World War II."
Climate change is a big part of Biden's agenda. The Energy Department does much more than energy.
The department is in charge of cleaning up radioactive waste, running massive supercomputers and maintaining a fleet of 17 national laboratories across the country in addition to helping set U.S. energy policy.
The bulk of the department's budget goes toward the National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the nation's nuclear weapon arsenal. The hiring of Turk means neither of the top two officials at DOE are scientists. Both of Obama's energy secretaries, by contrast, were physicists.
Turk does have experience in nuclear deterrence, having helped coordinate Senate ratification for an arms reduction treaty with Russia. Biden has yet to nominate anyone to run the NNSA.
The Biden team also considered Arun Majumdar, a materials scientist and engineer who headed up a DOE research agency under Obama, for one of the two top spots in the department, as The Post previously reported.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said that “the Biden administration appears to be making its appointments at the senior levels of the department with the view of what many people think the Energy Department does"— mostly energy policy.
In reality, he said, “it's still the Nuclear Weapons Department."
Michael Regan advances out of committee.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 14 to 6 to move forward with his nomination to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, with Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) joining the 10 Democrats to approve him for the position.
If confirmed by the full Senate, Regan will be the first Black man to lead the agency, which will be central to the Biden administration’s ambitious efforts to combat climate change and mitigate environmental harms.
Another Republican senator comes out against Biden's interior secretary nominee: Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) tweeted that Rep. Deb Halaand’s (D-N.M.) confirmation “would be disastrous for western states, including her home state of New Mexico.”
The pushback to Biden's decision to nix the Keystone XL pipeline continues.
More than a dozen Republican attorneys general told Biden Tuesday his decision to revoke a key permit would result in “devastating damage." The states “are reviewing available legal options," according to a letter led by Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen (R).
Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), the new chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, urged Biden to reconsider his executive order rescinding the pipeline project in his own note that echoed Republican concerns about job losses and also claimed that pipelines were a safer way to transport oil compared to trucks or rail, per the Associated Press.
The dispute demonstrates the way that Manchin, a longtime defender of West Virginia’s coal industry, could become a thorn in Biden’s side when it comes to the president’s climate ambitions.
Biden’s EPA alleges political interference by Trump appointees.
Agency officials said that the EPA is removing a toxicity assessment for a compound known as PFBS from its website because of political interference, the Hill reports.
Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, a career agency scientist, told the Hill that the career scientists had provided one value for PFBS’s toxicity, only to have the final document incorporate a range of values, raising concerns that corporations could cherry-pick whatever number they wanted to use.
David Dunlap, a Trump administration official who served in the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, disputed the accusations of political interference, saying that the final product was the result of a compromise between scientists who disagreed.
Audi Norway hits back after GM’s Super Bowl ad.
General Motors’s Super Bowl ad featured an incensed Will Ferrell punching a globe after finding out that Norway outranks the United States in sale of electric vehicles.
Now, Audi’s Norway division is punching back with a new ad that features Norwegian actor and “Game of Thrones” star Kristoffer Hivju, Ad Age reports. “Don’t hate. Imitate,” the ad proclaims.
California’s rainy season starts a month later than it used to, increasing fire risks.
Scientists say that the findings, from a new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, were predicted by climate models that showed lengthening dry seasons as a result of human-caused climate change.
The study found autumn rains are coming a month later than they did in the 1960s and that the fall months are progressively drier, Diana Leonard writes for The Post.
“There were very few bone-dry Novembers a few decades ago,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles, told The Post. “When you get to Thanksgiving, it’s pretty wet in Northern California — at least it used to be.”
A Baltimore art exhibit warns about the harms of pollution.
Among the pieces being featured at the American Visionary Art Museum's “The Secret Life of Earth” are “[s]ix extravagantly bejeweled primates by Johanna Burke look like they may have gotten lost on their way from the Rainforest Cafe to a Mardi Gras parade,” our colleague Kelsey Ables reports.