The wind industry's main trade association today appointed a new CEO with a background as a conservation advocate and environmental regulator in the first Bush administration.
Tom Kiernan will lead the American Wind Energy Association following a unanimous vote of the organization's board of directors. Kiernan comes to AWEA from the National Parks Conservation Association, which he has led since 1998.
"Tom brings the right combination of bipartisan, practical experience at the national and state levels as well as in small, rural communities where wind energy is most often developed," Tom Carnahan, chairman of AWEA's board of directors, said in a statement today. "His respected management style and significant executive abilities, combined with his skills as a communicator, will ensure that AWEA's voice and potential are leveraged not only in Washington but, even more importantly, in the communities in which our members operate."
Kiernan joins the trade association as the wind industry seeks to build on a successful 2012 in which it led all energy sources in the installation of new electric capacity in the United States and won a last-minute extension of its prized production tax credit through the end of this year. The industry faces continued policy challenges this year as it seeks another PTC extension among its policy goals.
"I look forward to working within the wind industry and with our many partners and supporters to craft a long-term strategy that creates healthy and consistent wind energy production in the United States," Kiernan said in a statement. "Implementing such a strategy will create jobs in our communities, strengthen our national economy, help address climate change, and diversify our energy portfolio with a low-cost source of power that will never run out."
Kiernan likely brings a familiarity with conservation issues wind developers face in siting turbines. He also is expected to have a positive relationship with recently appointed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who served on the parks association's board before joining the Obama administration. Interior regulates wind development on public lands and federal waters and enforces various wildlife protection laws developers must comply with.
Developers face numerous siting issues related to migratory bird corridors, habitat preservation and concern from local residents about impaired views, and Kiernan's background should allow him to help AWEA's member companies navigate regulatory thickets and address locals' concerns, said Tom Dennis, a Washington-based lobbyist who represents several wind companies.
"The recognition of the importance of addressing environmental concerns through appropriate siting and deployment is critical to the success of the wind industry moving forward," Dennis said in a brief interview this morning.
Prior to leading NPCA, Kiernan was the president of the Audubon Society of New Hampshire, a local bird conservation organization. He also served as a senior official in U.S. EPA's Office of Air and Radiation under President George H.W. Bush, where he developed a program bringing together businesses and environmental groups to control air pollution around the Grand Canyon, according to an AWEA news release. Kiernan also has worked for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and with Arthur Andersen & Co.