Energy Secretary Candidate Has Experience as Regulator, Executive

By Stych, Ed | THE JOURNAL RECORD, December 22, 1992 | Go to article overview

Energy Secretary Candidate Has Experience as Regulator, Executive


Stych, Ed, THE JOURNAL RECORD


MINNEAPOLIS _ Hazel O'Leary, President-elect Clinton's choice for energy secretary, has seen the industry both as a government regulator and an executive of a major nuclear- and coal-fired utility.

In the latter, she has crossed swords occasionally with environmentalists.

But those who have worked with her say she's likely to seek a reasonable balance between the concerns of the industry and the needs of the environment in her new job.

"The industry is trying to make changes and be environmentally responsible, and it doesn't happen overnight. And she understands that," said Don Storm, chairman of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

O'Leary, 55, the second woman and third black person named to Clinton's Cabinet, is no stranger to government. She served in energy posts under former Presidents Ford and Carter.

For the past 3 years she has served as executive vice president of corporate affairs at Northern States Power Co., representing the Minneapolis-based utility in regulatory matters.

Last week, in a corporate reorganization, she was named president of NSP Gas, a new post that oversees the utility's natural gas business.

Environmentalists praise O'Leary's commitment to energy conservation but say she'll have to prove the environmental commitment that both Clinton and Vice President-elect Al Gore credit her for possessing after years of representing a nuclear and coal utility.

"She's an intelligent woman. My concern is whether she really will wear a different hat now," said George Crocker, a co-founder of the Minnesota environmental group North American Water Office. He has occasionally fought NSP over environmental issues.

O'Leary led Northern States' efforts to place radioactive waste in metal casks outside its nuclear reactor near Red Wing, Minn.

Environmentalists strongly object to the proposed storage site being near a Mississippi River flood plain. Minnesota approved the utility plan but opponents have appealed in court.

She also led the utility's effort in 1990 to win state regulators' permission to burn PCB-contaminated oil at a Northern States power plant. …

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