Obama taps former Reid aide to run Interior energy agency

President Obama is tapping a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to direct the Interior Department branch that regulates oil-and-gas drilling, green power development and conservation on huge swaths of federal land.

Neil Kornze, the nominee to formally head the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is BLM’s principal deputy director and has been leading the bureau on an acting basis for eight months.

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Kornze has been a senior official at BLM since 2011, and from 2003-2011 worked in a variety of roles for Reid, including senior policy adviser.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell praised the White House move to make Kornze the official head of the BLM, a task that will keep Kornze front-and-center in political battles over conservation and drilling.

“Neil has helped implement forward-looking reforms at the BLM to promote energy development in areas of minimal conflict, drive landscape-level planning efforts, and dramatically expand the agency’s use of technology to speed up the process for energy permitting,” Jewell said in a statement.

In addition, Obama announced that he would nominate Tommy Beaudreau as Interior’s assistant secretary for policy, management and budget, a plan The Houston Chronicle reported last week.

Beaudreau is currently Interior’s acting assistant secretary for land and minerals management and is also the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

“[Beaudreau] has successfully led key administration and departmental energy reforms in the Gulf of Mexico, steadily advanced our Atlantic offshore wind program and developed and implemented critical regulatory initiatives for Arctic conservation and energy policy. His accomplishments and skills will well serve the department and the nation in his new position,” Jewell said in a statement.

The announcements are part of a broader reshuffling of top posts at Interior. Click here and here for more.

Obama also plans to nominate Thomas Burke as assistant administrator for research and development at the Environmental Protection Agency. If confirmed, Burke will leave his post as associate dean at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Laura Barron-Lopez contributed

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