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Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President, Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President, Energy and Climate ...

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2013 White House / The White House

Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President, Energy and Climate Change

(Richard A. Bloom)

photo of Coral Davenport
July 17, 2013

Despite her "deputy" title, Zichal, 37, has served as Obama's most senior energy and climate change adviser since 2011, when Carol Browner, his climate "czar," left the White House. With the president declaring in his Inaugural Address that he intends to make climate change a top priority, Zichal's influence and prominence are expected to increase further. She has been with Obama since his first presidential campaign, where she served as the top energy and environment adviser. Zichal came to the White House from the office of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., where she was the top climate policy adviser from 2002 to 2008, including for Kerry's 2004 presidential bid. She held the same positions for Democratic Reps. Rush Holt and Frank Pallone of New Jersey. Zichal has deep environmental roots, which she credits in part to her childhood in Elkader, Iowa, where she worked on her grandfather's dairy farm—and urged her parents to recycle. She studied environmental policy at Rutgers University, graduating in 1999. During Obama's first term, Zichal had to reconcile her green background with her boss's desire to strike a political balance on energy issues. While the White House pushed a climate change bill on Capitol Hill and an aggressive slate of clean-air regulations, it also pursued new offshore drilling in Alaska and cultivated warmer relationships with the fossil-fuel industry, as the U.S. enjoyed an explosion in oil and gas production. But she has developed a reputation among players across the energy spectrum as a smart, pragmatic, and serious player.

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