DoE’s Silverman helps us breathe a little easier

Josh Silverman, director, Office of Sustainability Support, Energy Department

Michael O'Connell | April 17, 2015 5:13 pm

The work of Josh Silverman has made all of us breathe a little easier and now he’s being recognized for it.

As the director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Sustainability Support, Silverman discovered that DoE’s facilities were emitting more than 1 million tons of sulfur hexafluoride, the most potent greenhouse gas in the world.

Silverman led a departmental working group that identified gaps in DoE’s air pollution controls and implemented measures to prevent greenhouse gases from being released. The effort resulted in the equivalent of 200,000 cars being removed from America’s roads a year.

“The results are dramatic,” Andrew Lawrence, director of the DoE’s Office of Environmental Protection and Safety Analysis, said. “DoE cut these emissions by more than 60 percent since the first inventory, avoiding the release of over a million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”

Josh Silverman, director, Office of Sustainability Support, Energy Department
For his work, the Partnership for Public Service named Silverman as a finalist for a 2013 Service to America Medal in the Science and Environment category. This award honors a federal worker who has made significant contributions to the country in the area of science and environment.


Silverman was recently interviewed on In Depth with Francis Rose. He also answered the following questions about himself and his career in the federal government.

What three words best describe your leadership philosophy?
Walk the talk.

What’s the best piece of advice (or words of wisdom) you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?
“Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.” — Attributed to Voltaire, practiced by my old boss Tom Traceski.

Who is your biggest role model and why?
My mother: it still amazes me that she managed to complete a Ph.D. while raising two children as a single working mom. It doesn’t amaze me that she then became a mentor to generations of educators.

Dr. David Michaels: David, who hired me into DoE and is now head of OSHA, believed that DoE needed to make peace with its past and do better in the future. He successfully challenged the status quo and accepted wisdom in DoE, getting Congress to establish a new program to benefit nuclear workers made sick from exposures at DoE or its predecessor agencies.

What’s the last thing you read and what’s next on your reading list?
Last read: Keith Richards, “Life” Next up: Denise Kiernan, “The Girls of Atomic City”

What’s your favorite bureaucratic phrase?
“I’m from Washington and I’m here to help.”

The Science and Environment Medal is just one of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) presented annually by the Partnership for Public Service. View a gallery of all the Sammies nominees here.