WASHINGTON – President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to announce a significant part of his energy and environmental team this week.
In the coming days, Mr. Biden intends to appoint prominent leaders in the world of climate and clean energy to two leadership roles: Gina McCarthy, a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, will be its senior advisor on climate change, and Jennifer M. Granholm , a former Michigan governor, will head the Department of Energy.
Mr Biden on Tuesday appointed Pete Buttigieg, former Democratic presidential candidate and Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, as his secretary of the Department of Transportation, a role that is expected to be climate-centric in the next administration as Mr Biden urges action to promote electric vehicles and one climate-resistant infrastructure.
The president-elect’s decision to head the Environmental Protection Agency is still undecided, however. This person will be at the center of his election pledges to build an ambitious agenda to combat climate change and reintroduce environmental legislation that President Trump has overturned.
“A new era of climate responsibility is just around the corner,” former Vice President Al Gore said in a statement. “The US is back in action.”
Describing Ms. McCarthy as “uniquely suited to the job,” Mr. Gore said that her appointment, along with John Kerry’s role as global climate officer, “confirms that Joe Biden is serious about America leading by example in deep pollution and pollution reductions.” Climate drives emissions. “
Ms. McCarthy, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama administration, was the architect of the landmark rules to reduce pollution from global warming. In her new role, she would be responsible for coordinating national climate protection policy throughout the federal government.
In addition to developing the Clean Power Plan, which set the first national limits for carbon emissions from power plants, it also set rules to reduce mercury emissions from power plants, increase fuel efficiency in motor vehicles, and limit methane leaks from oil upstream and gas wells.
The coal, gas and oil industries resisted all of these measures, which were ultimately overturned or weakened by the Trump administration.
Ms. McCarthy’s deputy will be Ali Zaidi, New York State Assistant Secretary for Energy and Environment. Mr. Zaidi served in the Obama Administration’s Bureau of Administration and Budget, where he helped coordinate and implement climate change policies and served as the top climate change advisor in Mr. Biden’s campaign.
John Podesta, the founder of the Center for American Progress and former advisor to President Barack Obama on climate change, called Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Zaidi a “powerhouse”.
Some Republicans were less enthusiastic. Wyoming Senator John Barrasso said in a statement that he was concerned about the revival of Obama-era policies, which he described as “punishing” his state and others with fossil fuel-dependent economies.
“Increased innovation – not the appointment of countless unchecked tsars – will help protect our environment without penalizing our economy,” Barrasso said.
In her new position, Ms. McCarthy will have the authority to direct government leaders across the federal government to enact climate policies, from emissions regulations at the EPA to financial regulations for companies related to their financial exposure to climate risk.
However, it is not yet clear who will take up her old job as EPA administrator, a position that will come with the authority to reintroduce and strengthen the Obama-era climate rules that Ms. McCarthy once wrote.
Mr. Biden’s first choice to head the EPA was Mary D. Nichols, California’s top regulator for climate change. Liberal activists, however, claimed they had not done enough in their state to address racial disparities in environmental policy.
That sparked a battle to find a new candidate to run the agency. Opportunities now include Richard L. Revesz, a law professor and former dean of New York University School of Law; Michael S. Regan, currently serving as director of environmental quality in North Carolina; and Eric Garcetti, the Mayor of Los Angeles.
A Biden transition official said a final EPA election may not be made until after Christmas.
Ms. Granholm and Mr. Buttigieg are also expected to be among Ms. McCarthy’s top clean energy lieutenants.
As the head of energy, Ms. Granholm will oversee the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, as well as 17 national laboratories and a wide range of energy research and development initiatives, including a large credit bureau that supports Tesla’s launch.
The transition of the president
Apr. 15, 2020, 6:45 am ET
Several people on the verge of the transition said the advisors had argued over whether the Department of Energy should be headed by someone who is rooted in its core role in keeping the country’s nuclear arsenal safe, or whether Mr Biden should have someone with a vision for clean leadership should choose -energy transformation.
A longtime advocate of renewable energy development, Ms. Granholm is widely credited with navigating her state through a recession and working with the Obama administration on a 2009 bailout for the auto industry during her two terms as Michigan governor, the investment and clean energy incentives included automakers to invest in technologies such as battery storage.
After the end of her second term in 2011, she was committed to the development of renewable energies. She gave a TED talk on how investing in alternative energy resources can boost the state economy, which is what Mr Biden focused on in his Coronavirus Recovery Plan.
Mr Buttigieg, as Secretary of Transportation, is expected to play a key role in setting stricter regulations on auto emissions, the main source of global warming pollution in the United States, in order to promote electric vehicles and provide funding for local transportation.
“Transportation really should be viewed as a green agency,” said Carol Browner, who served as senior climate change advisor to President Barack Obama.
During his presidential campaign, Mr Buttigieg pledged to restore emissions standards to Obama-era vehicles and called for the United States to be carbon neutral by 2050.
Climate change is also expected to play a broader role in the planning of infrastructures such as roads, bridges, dams, and dams, as the department considers new climate science that shows how heat and flooding can damage such structures, and builds and design accordingly.
Mr. Buttigieg has often attributed his awareness of the climate emergency to his experience dealing with two immense St. Joseph River floods when he was Mayor of South Bend, Ind.
Mr Biden is also said to be nearing a decision on who will be appointed Home Secretary to oversee the country’s 500 million acres of public land, including national parks, oil and gas wells and endangered species habitat. The Secretary of the Interior would also be at the forefront of efforts to strengthen federal protection of vast swaths of land and water that the Trump administration has opened up to drilling, mining, logging, and construction.
The top contender is said to be Representative Deb Haaland, Democrat of New Mexico, an appointment that would resonate with symbolism. If approved by the Senate, Ms. Haaland would be the first Native American woman to be named cabinet secretary.
The Home Office has ruled states for much of the nation’s history, often ousting and abusing Indians. Ms. Haaland is a citizen of Laguna Pueblo, one of the 574 nationally recognized Indian tribes in the country.
A growing coalition of progressive democratic groups, Native American tribal leaders, and Hollywood celebrities have campaigned for Mr. Biden to select Ms. Haaland for weeks. Those efforts have had an impact, according to people in transition.
However, Mr Biden is also reluctant to remove a Democrat from the House, which would temporarily reduce the already slim majority of Democrats in the Chamber until a special election could take place in Ms. Haaland’s district.
Other candidates for the inner post include Michael Connor, a former Obama administration assistant secretary of the interior who is a citizen of the Taos Pueblo tribe, and Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, a longtime friend of Mr. Biden’s career, advocate for the protection of the wilderness.