Grading the cabinet

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  January 29, 2009


IAN BOWLES | Energy and Environmental Affairs | A-

• Studies hard; detail-oriented

• Impressive at achieving results

• May be neglecting important work that he finds less interesting

Bowles oversees a department that, under Patrick's reorganization, combined energy and environment under one secretary. A wonk who worked on environmental issues in the Clinton White House and on the National Security Council, Bowles was expected to be a whiz at the policy, but not necessarily at management and politics.

So it's a bit surprising to some that Bowles has successfully managed to shepherd through so much big, sweeping legislation.

Patrick initiatives on ocean management, global warming, renewable energy, and green jobs have become law. The legislature deserves much of the credit, as does Bowles's senior advisor, Christian Scorzoni (a former Robert Travaglini aide). But Bowles was a driving force.

"It's been a very successful year," says Bob Durand, an environmental consultant who once held Bowles's position. "You couldn't ask for anything better."

"All of a sudden," says Joseph Baerlein, partner at Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications (whose lengthy rûsumû includes work under two cabinet secretaries), "environment and energy policies are on page one."

And, given the progressive nature of the initiatives, it's interesting to find that some business groups also give Bowles a thumbs-up. "We've been very pleased working with Secretary Bowles," says David Begelfer, CEO of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, in Needham. "We've had tremendous access to the secretary and the department."

It's hard to deny the success on the energy side. But some are concerned that the full-throttle focus on those big initiatives has left some old-fashioned environmental matters unattended.

One of those areas is water infrastructure, which may need an estimated $12 billion in repairs. Advocates say the issue is not being addressed; in fact, Patrick vetoed an attempt to create a commission to study the problem, for fear, some charge, that the resulting findings would expose the administration's inaction.

But Durand argues that good undersecretaries are taking care of that end of things, and most observers agree that Bowles has put together a strong team.

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