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New BOEM Director Strong on Renewables, Offshore Wind

Abigail Ross Hopper, current director of the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) and a strong supporter of offshore wind energy, has been named director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) effective Jan. 5, according to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

"Abigail Hopper’s knowledge of the energy sector, experience working with a wide variety of stakeholders and her legal expertise will be valuable assets to the bureau and the department as we continue to ensure the safe and responsible development of our domestic energy and mineral resources and stand up an offshore wind program," Jewell said. "She is an accomplished professional who brings strategic leadership and long-term vision to the job, and I look forward to having her as a member of our senior leadership team."

Hopper has led the MEA since 2012 and served concurrently as energy adviser to Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley since 2010. She previously spent three years as deputy general counsel with the Maryland Public Service Commission, and prior to that spent nine years in private practice, where she specialized in merger and investment counseling and corporate law. Hopper graduated cum laude from the University of Maryland School of Law and earned a bachelor of arts degree from Dartmouth College.

During her time at MEA, Hopper played a key role in the passage of the Maryland Offshore Wind Act of 2013, and she oversaw programs designed to achieve the state's energy goals, including increasing renewable energy production, reducing energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"She has been a key member of the team as we've aggressively pursued a more sustainable energy future for Marylanders -- including expanding our use of wind energy and other renewable sources," O'Malley said. "Her hard work has been crucial to helping Marylanders reduce their energy usage, save money on their energy bills, and obtain more of their energy from renewable resources. Her experience and expertise in working with a diverse group of stakeholders will serve BOEM well."

But that focus on renewables has some natural gas and oil advocates wary of Hopper’s attitude toward fossil fuels. The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) is "concerned" that Jewell "did not name a BOEM director with a broader range of all-of-the above energy experience," said NOIA President Randall Luthi.

"While her background in renewable energy, particularly offshore wind, will certainly be an asset as BOEM's offshore renewable energy program continues to show steady progress, we are hopeful that Ms. Hopper will recognize the importance of our nation's offshore energy resources to America's energy, economic and national security, especially as BOEM is in the midst of developing the 2017-2022 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program, which has far-reaching implications for America's energy future."

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) was critical of Hopper's work with O'Malley, which he said included "some troublingly hostile comments towards fossil fuels.

"...I hope that Director Hopper will listen to the bipartisan support for exploration in the Atlantic and will work to expand the opportunities to explore truly new offshore areas for both renewable energy opportunities and oil and gas and was not deliberately chosen to stifle the progress of American energy independence."

Hopper will be the second director in BOEM's history. She will take the helm from Acting Director Walter Cruickshank, who has been serving since former Director Tommy Beaudreau became chief of staff to Jewell in May. Beaudreau was named head of the newly-formed BOEM in 2011 (see Daily GPI, Sept. 19, 2011). Cruickshank will continue to serve as BOEM deputy director, a position he has held since October 2011, Jewell said.

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