Senate confirms Moniz to lead DOE in 97-0 vote

Ernest Moniz Department of Energy Secretary confirmed

By Denver Nicks, Associate Editor, Power Engineering

The US Senate voted 97 to 0 to confirm Ernest Moniz to head up the Department of Energy Thursday afternoon.

Moniz, an MIT professor known to support the exploitation of natural gas resources in the U.S. through hydraulic fracturing, will succeed Steven Chu, who left the Energy Department earlier this year to return to academia at Stanford. Moniz has most recently been serving as director of MIT’s Energy Initiative and on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

In response to the confirmation, the Sierra Club released a statement congratulating the new department head while urging him to reconsider his position on hydraulic fracturing as well as on proposed liquefied natural gas terminals in the U.S. that will facilitate the export of American natural gas.

The Nuclear Energy Institute and the Edison Electric Institute both issued statements of congratulations, expressing approval of the Moniz pick. Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said Moniz was "uniquely qualified" and said he would be an "outstanding Secretary of Energy." A nuclear physicist by training, Moniz is publicly expressed strong support for nuclear energy and for research into advanced energy technologies in the past.

The confirmation comes after weeks of uncertainty, during which Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, placed a hold on Moniz’ nomination in order to project a pet project in his home state. Graham was concerned about language in the Obama administration’s proposed 2014 budget suggesting the government look at possibly shutting down the mixed oxide fuel processing facility in South Carolina, part of a national program to turn weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes.

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