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On April 25, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) named Tom Kiernan its next CEO. Kiernan takes over for former policy director Robert Gramlich, who was named interim CEO following Denise Bode's Dec. 14, 2012, resignation.

Although Kiernan does not officially begin at AWEA until May 28, he will be speaking during the AWEA WINDPOWER 2013 Conference & Exhibition, held in Chicago, May 5-8, where he will deliver remarks during the May 6 opening general session.

AWEA declined to clarify what Gramlich's title will be after May 28, but the association maintains that he will continue to play "a leading role" in policy endeavors.

For his part, Kiernan comes to AWEA after serving as president of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), a post he held for 15 years. And although he may be new to AWEA, he's no stranger to wind energy.

In fact, while at the NPCA, Kiernan joined other conservation groups that supported an extension of the production tax credit (PTC).

During a conference call, Kiernan told NAW that he first learned of the AWEA vacancy in December and that, by January, he and the AWEA board of directors had made contact. A self-described leader who can work across the aisle to build consensus, Kiernan said his first priority is to ensure a smooth transition.

"There are some challenges that the wind industry faces, but the long-term prospects are extraordinary," he said.

Kiernan was a senior-level official in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Office of Air and Radiation under President George H.W. Bush, where he won the gold medal for his role in achieving consensus with businesses and environmentalists on a $450 million pollution-control project at Grand Canyon National Park.

Although he was an appointee of George H.W. Bush, Kiernan said that he has many close and effective relationships with members of the Obama administration. As befits a consensus builder, Kiernan added that among his priorities is to listen to the concerns of AWEA's membership.

"I want to understand the views of all operators - big or small - to coalesce around the strategy growing forward," he explained.

Upon taking the helm, Kiernan faces a range of issues that could affect the direction of the wind industry for the next 20 years. He will be tasked with helping determine the duration of the PTC’s phase-out and fighting for the passage of the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act, a recently reintroduced bill designed to make master limited partnerships applicable to wind energy.

Regarding the PTC, Gramlich said that there are no formal discussions currently taking place on Capitol Hill. Just the same, Gramlich noted AWEA will continue to press legislators for stability.

"We're trying to get out of the boom-and-bust policy of the tax credit," Gramlich said. "Congress needs to focus on predictability. We are communicating [that message] with tax reform working groups."


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