Obama Settles on Nominees for Energy Czar, Energy Secretary and EPA Administrator

December 9, 2008 06:00 PM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Browner, Chu and Jackson to direct environment, energy policy

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

President-elect Barack Obama has decided on his nominees for an energy czar (Carol Browner), Energy Secretary (Asian-American Steven Chu from Los Angeles), and Environmental Protection Agency administrator (Lisa P. Jackson from New Jersey), according to Democratic sources familiar with the coming announcements.

Carol Browner is the best known, having served as EPA administrator for President Clinton. She will coordinate energy policy from the White House, like the role Lawrence Summers will have coordinating economic policy at the National Economic Council (NEC). She is married to Tom Downey. a former New York congressman. Browner is currently a principal at global strategy firm The Albright Group LLC, and heads Obama's advisory team on energy and the environment. She was previously legislative director for then-Sen. Al Gore (D-Tenn.) and later head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection under then-Gov. Lawton Chiles (D).

Browner will get mixed reactions (at best) from production agriculture interests.

Steven Chu, the son of Chinese immigrants, is currently director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. At the Lawrence Berkeley laboratory, he has sponsored research into biofuels and solar energy.

Lisa P. Jackson was profiled in a previous column when sources said she had the inside track -- and that assessment proved accurate. She is currently chief of staff for New Jersey Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, but served for several years before that as the commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. She formerly worked in the Clinton administration's EPA and is a native of New Orleans.

Nancy Sutley will reportedly be named chairwoman of the president's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). She is now Los Angeles's deputy mayor for energy and environment and was formerly in President Clinton's EPA (she was a top aide to Browner at the EPA dealing with air-pollution issues). The CEQ advises the President and Vice President on national and international environmental policy matters and works to ensure that federal agencies operate efficiently and in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. Sutley was an energy advisor to California Gov. Gray Davis, was deputy secretary for policy and intergovernmental relations within the California Environmental Protection Agency, and served on the California State Water Resources Control Board. Sutley, whose mother is from Argentina, identifies herself as a Latina.

Obama plans to name the environmental team next week in Chicago.

Comments: As expected, Obama is turning left in his latest nominees. Some of the nominees will clearly focus on the need to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases. Renewable energy will also be a focus -- in part because of Obama's support for the topic. It will be interesting to see what Chu and especially Browner have to say about renewable energy, and corn-based ethanol in particular.

California waiver denial rethink ahead. Browner has previously said that the new administration should direct the EPA to reconsider the decision by the Bush administration to deny California a waiver from the Clean Air Act that would have allowed the state to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles.

The EPA administrator nominee, Lisa P. Jackson, would be the third African-American nominated for a Cabinet post, after United Nations Ambassador-nominee Susan Rice, and Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder. It will put to rest errant conjecture as recently as today that Obama would pick controversial candidate Robert Kennedy Jr. for the position.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


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