Obama’s top climate adviser to leave, report says

The White House’s chief climate change adviser reportedly will leave the administration within the next several weeks, leaving a key hole in the leadership team charged with overseeing President Obama’s ambitious global-warming agenda.

The pending resignation of Heather Zichal, who has worked with the president since his 2008 campaign and took over as head climate-change and energy adviser in 2011, first was reported by Reuters on Monday.

Ms. Zichal was instrumental in putting together the “climate action plan” put forth by Mr. Obama this summer during a speech at Georgetown University.

In the months since, the Environmental Protection Agency and other arms of the federal government have begun to implement that plan, which includes tough new carbon emissions standards for existing coal and natural gas-fired power plants.

Along with officials at the EPA, Ms. Zichal played a role in the administration’s renewable energy initiative — highlighted by billions of dollars in federal investment into wind, solar and other “green” fuels during Mr. Obama’s first term — and also helped establish new fuel efficiency standards for automobiles.

Her work over the past two years has endeared her to the environmental community, a key bloc of voters that helped elect and re-elect the president.

Ms. Zichal has worked tirelessly to cut carbon pollution and promote a clean-energy future. She has played a critically important role in many historic accomplishments. … America is better off today because of her commitment to a cleaner, safer world,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told Politico that the president values Ms. Zichal’s “expertise and counsel.”

Heather will be missed here at the White House, but our work on this important issue will go on,” he added.

Ms. Zichal took the job after the resignation of former climate czar Carol Browner.

Her departure marks yet another change in the White House’s energy and environmental team, which has seen significant turnover over the past year.

First-term Energy Secretary Steven Chu was replaced earlier this year by MIT professor Ernest Moniz.

Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson also left earlier this year and has been replaced by Gina McCarthy, a longtime EPA official.

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