New Energy Advisor Has Big Oil and Gas Background

May 4, 2012

Utah Governor Gary Herbert has a new energy advisor and at least one environmental group is already calling foul. Herbert announced today that Cody Stewart, who’s currently serving as Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell’s Chief of Staff, will help the governor increase energy development in the state. But as Whittney Evans reports, HEAL Utah says his interests are with big oil and gas.

Cody Stewart says his number one priority as energy advisor to the governor will be to increase the development of energy in the state of Utah.

“That would include traditional fuels, so oil and natural gas but also alternatives... such as oil shale and tar sands, but also renewable. The governor has been clear that he really wants to look at all forms of energy in the state of Utah and to do whatever we can to  increase and responsibly develop those resources.”

Stewart is replacing Amanda Smith, who had been wearing two hats as the governor’s energy advisor and the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality.

Stewart is a former spokesman for Americans for American Energy, an organization that advocated for energy independence. The group has been criticized for calling itself a grassroots organization despite being funded by the oil and gas industry. He says he’s not ashamed of the work he did for the organization.

“But I’ve always advocated for the responsible and balanced development of energy and I don’t think those things are mutually exclusive. Some groups unfortunately are unable to agree with that but the governor has made it very clear that his priority is a balanced approach and the environmental responsible development of energy.”

Stewart says he believes he’s in a good position to help advance that cause.

Matt Pacenza with clean energy and anti-nuclear advocate HEAL Utah says those claims of balance are reminiscent of Governor Herbert himself.

“You can claim balance. You can claim you support a wide range of things but when the rubber meets the road as with both Mr. Stewart's career and Governor Herbert’s it’s quite clear that they are there to see as much oil and gas and nuclear done as possible.”

The governor released a 10-year energy plan last year, saying he wanted Utah to be a leader in renewable energy. But Pacenza says meanwhile Utah ranks 46th in the country in renewable energy consumption.

He says the group has no reason to believe Stewart could find common ground with environmental groups like HEAL Utah:

“Ms. Smith did come from the environmental community and we did not always agree with her positions but it’s safe to say that she was fully aware of environmental concerns, also works as the chief of the agency that takes a close look at their concerns. So we appreciated that at least we could speak the same language.”

Stewart is formerly the Communications Coordinator for the House Committee on Natural Resources under Chairman Jim Hansen, a senior Legislative Assistant on Energy and Public Lands Policy to Congressman Chris Cannon, and Legislative Director for Congressman Rob Bishop. He also worked as a consultant specializing in western energy and natural resource policy.