Amy Harder Feb 22
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Scoop: Top Energy Department adviser to depart

Workers leave the Departent of Energy in D.C. Photo: Washington Post/Getty

Travis Fisher, a political appointee at the Energy Department who oversaw a high-profile electricity study, is leaving the agency, according to an administration official.

Why it matters: Departures of top advisers always matter. And in this case Fisher’s time at the agency was marked by controversy surrounding Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s divisive proposal to boost economically struggling coal and nuclear power plants.

Drilling down: Fisher oversaw a study Perry requested last year that found market dynamics — namely, cheap natural gas and renewables — were making nuclear power and coal plants less economically viable. That study ended up being much less controversial than some had speculated because it largely reaffirmed what most objective experts say. It therefore contrasted markedly with the subsequent rule Perry requested the independent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issue boosting coal and nuclear power plants. FERC rejected that proposal.

For the record: Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes declined to comment on Fisher’s departure, calling it an internal personnel matter.

The intrigue: Many observers had questioned why the staff report differed so much from what Perry ultimately asked FERC to issue. Fisher’s departure from the department is at least partly due to these differences in policy positions, according to a person familiar with the dynamics. Fisher was formerly at the conservative and free-market group Institute for Energy Research, and before that he spent seven years at FERC itself, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The bigger picture: Fisher’s pending departure is the third in a series among senior energy staff at the Trump administration, though they don't represent the senior most ranks at the Cabinet level. Other recent departures:

  • A White House energy adviser resigned last week over background check issues.
  • The Energy Department’s deputy general counsel left to go to a Texas think tank a couple of weeks ago, according to E&E (paywall).

Go deeper:

  • Fisher was a guest on the Interchange, a popular energy podcast, to talk about his role in the electricity study last summer.
  • The Hunger Games of Electricity, a Harder Line column of mine about the electricity conflict among different energy sources
Haley Britzky 2 hours ago
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DOJ eyeing tool to allow access to encrypted data on smartphones

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

The Justice Department is in "a preliminary stage" of discussions about requiring tech companies building "tools into smartphones and other devices" that would allow law enforcement investigators to access encrypted data, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: This has been on the FBI's mind since 2010, and last month the White House "circulated a memo...outlining ways to think about solving the problem," officials told the Times. Both FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, support finding ways for law enforcement to access data without compromising devices security.

Haley Britzky 2 hours ago
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Media tycoon Barry Diller talks #MeToo

 IAC & Expedia, Inc. Chairman & Senior Executive Barry Diller
IAC & Expedia, Inc. Chairman & Senior Executive Barry Diller. Photo: Cindy Ord / Getty Images for Yahoo

Barry Diller, chairman of mega-media and Internet company IAC, told the New York Times he thinks "all men are guilty," when it comes to "the spectrum" of the #MeToo movement.

"I hope in the future for some form of reconciliation. Because I think all men are guilty. I’m not talking about rape and pillage. I’m not talking about Harveyesque. I’m talking about all of the spectrum. From an aggressive flirt. Or even just a flirty-flirt that has one sour note in it. Or what I think every man was guilty of, some form of omission in attitude, in his views."

Why it matters: The #MeToo movement has rocked Hollywood and the media industry. Diller told the Times he sees the effects of this "in our companies, where the relationships between people are changing."