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O'Malley aide Abigail Hopper tapped to run federal offshore energy bureau

O'Malley aide Abigail Hopper tapped to run federal offshore energy bureau
Abigail Ross Hopper, head of the Maryland Energy Administration and Gov. Martin O'Malley's energy advisor, is to become director of the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. (Amy Davis)

The chief of Maryland's Energy Administration, Abigail Ross Hopper, landed a new job Thursday, running the federal agency that oversees development of offshore oil and gas and wind energy.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced Hopper's selection as director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, effective Jan. 5.  She will become the bureau's second official chief, taking over from acting director Walter Cruickshank.

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Hopper has led Maryland's energy administration since 2012 while also serving as energy advisor to Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a position she's held since 2010.

She helped guide the O'Malley administration's controversial offshore wind subsidy through the General Assembly in 2013.  As the state energy agency chief, she also oversaw the administration's efforts to boost renewable energy production, reduce energy consumption and reduce climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions.

Hopper joins the Obama administration at a time it is considering opening portions of the Outer Continental Shelf along the East Coast to oil and gas exploration while also attempting to "stand up" an offshore wind industry. The bureau has auctioned off several offshore wind leases, including one this year off Maryland's coast.

O'Malley released a statement praising his aide, saying her work had been crucial to helping Marylanders reduce their energy usage, save money on their energy bills, and obtain more of their energy from renewable resources."

Offshore wind developer Peter Mandelstam of Green Sail Energy called Hopper's appointment "a great choice," saying her work on Maryland's offshore wind subsidy was "pretty impressive and pretty innovative."

"I believe that she'll bring to the national offshore industry the kind of focus and bipartisan approach she brought to Maryland," Mandelstam said.

Frank Maisano, a Washington lobbyist for wind and other energy industry interests, called Hopper a "capable, savvy policy expert who has excellent political skills." He also said she is "a very quick study," a trait he predicted would be essential as she takes on her new role.

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