Utech to become Obama's top climate, energy adviser


WASHINGTON, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Dan Utech, a long-timeWashington insider on environmental issues, will becomePresident Barack Obama's top adviser on energy and climatechange, a White House official said on Friday, a role that willinvolve tough decisions on power plants and TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL pipeline.

The move had been widely expected after the Obamaadministration said earlier this month that Heather Zichal, whoserved five years in the position, would step down. Her last dayis Friday.

Utech will help Obama implement his climate action plan,which involves limiting carbon emissions from power plants andthe pipeline project that would link Canada's oil sands withrefineries in Texas.

Obama set a June 2014 deadline for the EnvironmentalProtection Agency to propose limits on existing power plants,one of the top U.S. greenhouse gas sources. The rules need to befinalized a year after that.

A decision on the Keystone XL pipeline is expected nextyear, after the State Department and other agencies weigh in onwhether the project is in the national interest. Obama said inAugust he could not approve the project if it significantlyworsened climate change.

Utech, the deputy director for climate at the White House,was also a one-time adviser to former Energy Secretary StevenChu. Before that he served as an aide in the U.S. Senate for adecade, working on energy and environmental issues.

"Dan Utech is a worthy successor to Heather Zichal," saidDaniel Weiss, a senior fellow and director of climate strategyat the Center for American Progress. "He brings keen analyticaland political skill to the challenge of making President Obama'sClimate Action Plan into reality."

Zichal was "a trusted advisor" and "has been a strong andsteady voice for policies that reduce America's dependence onforeign oil, protect public health and our environment, andcombat the threat of global climate change," Obama said in astatement.

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