Energy Department loses senior official, Chu’s chief of staff

Chu said Arun Majumdar, who heads the department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy will fill Zoi’s shoes while continuing to run ARPA-E, which funds so-called “high-risk, high-reward” projects to develop cutting-edge energy sources.

“We are also fortunate that Henry Kelly, currently Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, will assume the role of Acting Assistant Secretary for that office,” Chu’s memo notes.

Rod O’Connor, Chu’s chief of staff, will exit March 18 for a “new opportunity in his wife’s native home of London,” Chu writes.

“Rod has helped to guide the work of this Department from the first days of this Administration, and I, just like you, will miss his leadership and wise counsel,” Chu writes.

Brandon Hurlbut, the deputy chief of staff, will fill O’Connor’s shoes on an acting basis, Chu said. The memo also names a replacement for departing General Counsel Scott Harris, who is leaving the agency soon. Deputy General Counsel for Environment and Nuclear Programs Sean Lev will step into the role on an acting basis.

Zoi, O’Connor and Harris are the latest in a string of high-level departures first announced last September and October.

In addition to Johnson, the heads of the department’s nuclear and fossil energy offices have departed. So did Matt Rogers, who advised Chu on implementing the massive energy programs in the 2009 stimulus package.

The latest changes come at a time when President Obama is at odds with Republicans over DOE’s budget.

Obama is seeking greater funding for several renewable energy- and-efficiency initiatives, including ARPA-E, and research and development programs for wind and solar in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, among others. But Obama also wants to cut fossil energy initiatives.

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