Obama taps environment, energy nominees
By Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton, ReutersWASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama announced his nominees to lead a new U.S. push to tackle climate change on Monday, choosing an air quality expert to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a nuclear physicist to head the Department of Energy.
March 6, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
In a widely expected move, Obama selected agency veteran Gina McCarthy to replace Lisa Jackson as EPA administrator and scientist Ernest Moniz from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to take over from Steven Chu as Energy secretary.
Obama also announced his choice to lead the White House budget office — Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Walmart Foundation, a charitable group with ties to giant retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
White House economic adviser Brian Deese is a leading candidate to become Burwell's deputy director, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
McCarthy and Moniz round out the team Obama hopes will carry out his second term energy agenda. They join Sally Jewell, nominated last month to run the Interior Department.
The trio will be at the forefront of divisive issues surrounding the extent of U.S. natural gas exports and a possible move into crude oil exports, hydraulic fracturing and climate change.
The president, whose effort to establish a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions failed in his first term, prominently raised the issue of global warming in his Inaugural and State of the Union addresses earlier this year.
He urged Congress to embrace a market-based mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or face executive action from his administration to achieve the same goal.
McCarthy, now the assistant administrator for the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, has worked for Democrats and Republicans in the past, including Obama's 2012 presidential opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
“Gina has focused on practical, cost-effective ways to keep our air clean and our economy growing,” Obama said at the White House, ribbing McCarthy for her Boston accent.
“She's earned a reputation as a straight shooter. She welcomes different points of views.”
Environmentalists and congressional Democrats largely welcomed her nomination, but she is likely to face a grilling from Republicans, who have accused her of promoting policies that cost jobs.
Moniz, meanwhile, would become the go-to person for Obama's goal of reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil and establishing America as a leader in clean energy technology.
A former undersecretary of energy during the Clinton administration, Moniz is now director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Energy Initiative, a research group that gets funding from industry heavyweights including BP , Chevron, and Saudi Aramco for academic work on projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gases.
Natural Gas, Nuclear
Elgie Holstein, chief of staff at the Energy Department when Moniz was hired during the Clinton administration, dismissed complaints that he is too supportive of natural gas.
“I think the view that he is some sort of fracking fiend is entirely misplaced. He has a very balanced view of that,” said Holstein, who is now with the Environmental Defense Fund.
One of the first decisions Moniz will face at the helm of the Energy Department is whether to allow exports of natural gas to more than the current list of countries.