Sulphur High School 1987 graduate Dr. Paula Gant was recently appointed deputy assistant secretary for oil and natural gas at the Energy Department.

Sulphur High School 1987 graduate Dr. Paula Gant was recently appointed deputy assistant secretary for oil and natural gas at the Energy Department. Gant left her position as senior vice president of policy and planning at the American Gas Association to take her new title on Monday, Sept. 9.

"I am honored to have the opportunity to serve our country," stated Gant in an interview with the Southwest Daily News, "And I am hopeful that I will be able to contribute to the development of a secure and clean energy future."

Gant's focus for the last seven years has been federal and state regulatory issues. She was previously a vice president of government affairs for Duke Energy Corp. Gant's new position puts her in charge of the Energy Department's research on hydraulic fracturing and the development of methane gas extraction methods while she also helps to coordinate government research into safe offshore oil and gas development practices.

She had some good things to say about her home region.

"Southwest Louisiana is not only rich in natural resources; the region has been able to leverage those natural resources over many decades by building an industrial and petro-chemical infrastructure. That infrastructure provides a foundation for the area to benefit from the new abundance of our domestic natural gas and oil resources," she said.

Her appointment has already garnered support from Mark Brownstein, associate vice president and chief counsel for the U.S. Climate and Energy Program of Environmental Defense Fund. In a statement released by his office Brownstein said, "We applaud the Energy Secretary's decision to appoint Dr. Paula Gant. We've worked closely with Gant while she has been with the American Gas Association. She fully understands that energy and environment are two deeply involved facets, and we are confident in her abilities to meet the challenges ahead."

Brownstein further stated that Gant's office has a full plate.

"Real questions persist about this nation's ability to safely produce oil and natural gas resources – unacceptable impacts to the air, water and land that put our communities, habitats and the climate at risk of pollution," he said.

"Natural gas can and should be produced responsibly," said Gant. "Our communities and our economy depend on it. Responsible companies are doing just that across the country everyday, and state regulators are working to ensure that those who fail in that responsibility are met with enforcement actions. Our domestic abundance of natural gas is a windfall that will allow us to meet the energy needs of our economy while protecting our communities and the climate for decades to come."

Gant is 1991 graduate of McNeese State University, where she served as President of the Student Government Association.

"I am grateful for the many people who have mentored and supported me throughout my life." she said, "From Rene Fontenot, my third grade teacher at Henning, to Linda Dupuis at W.W. Lewis, to Donna Lynn Lowery and Michael Danos at Sulphur High and Mike Kurth at McNeese — so many people gave me so much that set me on a good path in life."

After MSU, Gant received her Ph.D. in Economics from Auburn University. She taught at LSU while working as state spokesperson for the then Gulf States Utilities. Gant then moved to the University of Louisville, where she taught economics.

She later went to work for Duke Energy in Houston, where she was in the Policy and Planning Department. She lived in Peru for a year, handling Duke's Policy and Planning in that area. After returning to Houston, Gant transferred with Duke to a Washington, D.C. position. From there, she moved to the American Gas Association, where she had been working as a Senior Vice-President in Policy and Legislation.

Gant and her family will continue to live in Washington, D.C.

"It's a privilege to live in the nation's capitol, and we plan to make the most of it," she said. However, she admitted to missing Louisiana food, especially fresh shrimp and figs in the summer.

"Being a Louisiana girl, I love to cook, of course," she said. "And my son, Mason, loves to help out in the kitchen when he is not playing soccer or swimming. I grew up sitting around the kitchen while my grandmother Nanell cooked dinner every night, and all of my friends knew what time to 'stop' by. I try to re-create that sense of home here in D.C. whenever I can."

Dr. Gant is the daughter of Joyce Areno Gant and the late Bill Gant.