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Energy Secretary nominee breezes through committee vote

Ernest Moniz testifies before a Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee hearing on his nomination to be energy secretary on Capitol Hill
Ernest Moniz testifies before a Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee hearing on his nomination to be energy secretary on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Energy Secretary nominee Ernest Moniz easily cleared his first hurdle in the Senate on Thursday, securing nearly unanimous support from the chamber's energy committee.

With a vote of 21 to 1 in favor of the pick, Moniz's nomination will move on for consideration by the full Senate. It is unclear when that will take place, but Moniz is widely expected to be confirmed.

Moniz, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, would replace Energy Secretary Steven Chu who announced earlier this year that he was stepping down.

Democrats and Republicans on the committee praised Moniz as an independent scientist with extensive knowledge of the Energy Department and its responsibilities.

"With his background as a well-respected scientist, I am confident that Dr. Moniz is going to use the best science and most current data in considering key policy questions," said Senate energy committee chairman Ron Wyden ahead of the panel's vote.

Moniz served as an undersecretary of energy during the Clinton administration.

Some environmentalists have criticized Moniz' nomination, saying he was too supportive of shale gas and nuclear power.

Moniz is director of MIT's Energy Initiative, which received funding from companies such as BP, Chevron and Saudi Aramco for academic work on projects aimed at reducing climate-changing greenhouse gases.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Ros Krasny, Gerald E. McCormick and Marguerita Choy)

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