Dec 12, 2008

Barack Obama Selects Environmental Team

Appointees include Lisa Jackson as head of U.S. EPA

President-elect Barack Obama will select former New Jersey environmental protection commissioner Lisa Jackson as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu as his energy secretary, a senior Democrat recently said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Carol Browner, a former EPA administrator, will also report to the president as a high-level coordinator on energy issues. Obama also plans to name Nancy Sutley, the Los Angeles deputy mayor, as head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and has yet to name an interior secretary.

The President-elect has indicated this team will carry out an ambitious environmental agenda. The newly designated officials bring experience working on climate change.

Jackson worked 16 years at the EPA before joining New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection, and was selected to run the department in 2006. She also served on the board of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Obama selected her after the election as an advisor on energy and natural resource issues during the transition.

Chu, the son of Chinese immigrants, is the director of a government research lab in California, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which has focused on alternative energy research and has pushed efforts to increase energy efficiency in buildings under his tenure.

Chu he won the Nobel Prize in Physics for "development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light."

Browner was the head of the EPA from 1993 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton, making her the agency's longest-serving director. She leads Obama's energy and environment transition team and is a principal of the Albright Group. She also sits on the boards of environmental groups, including the National Audubon Society and Alliance for Climate Protection.

Environmentalists praised the choices.

"These are win-win-wins, and wins for the environment," said Frances Beinecke, president of the National Resources Defense Council. She said the creation of Browner's position "clearly demonstrates that leadership is going to come from the White House" on alternative energy.

An oil industry group did not criticize the appointees.

"We look forward to working with all the Obama appointees to come up with a comprehensive, fact-based and realistic energy policy that will benefit the American people," said Karen Matusic, a spokeswoman for the American Petroleum Institute.

Major investments in alternative energy developments will likely be part of the massive economic stimulus package Obama is preparing.

Obama recently met with former Vice President Al Gore to discuss climate change, and afterward said: "The time for denial is over. We all believe what the scientists have been telling us for years now, that this is a matter of urgency and national security, and it has to be dealt with in a serious way. That is what I intend my administration to do."