WASHINGTON – President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to announce a major part of his energy and environment team this week.
In the coming days, Mr Biden intends to appoint prominent climate and clean energy leaders to two senior positions: Gina McCarthy, former director of the Environmental Protection Agency, will be its senior advisor on climate change, and Jennifer M Granholm, former governor of Michigan, will head the Department of Energy.
Mr Biden on Tuesday appointed Pete Buttigieg, the former Democratic presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend., Ind., As secretary of the Department of Transport, a post expected to become climate-focused in the next administration in as long as Mr. Biden encourages policies to promote electric vehicles and climate-resilient infrastructure.
However, the choice of the president-elect to lead the Environmental Protection Agency remains undecided. This person will be at the heart of his campaign pledges to adopt an ambitious agenda to fight climate change and restore environmental regulations that President Trump has overturned.
“A new era of climate responsibility is upon us,” former Vice President Al Gore said in a statement. “The United States is back to work.”
Mr Gore described Ms McCarthy as “perfectly suited for the job” and said her appointment, along with John Kerry’s role as global climate envoy, “says Joe Biden takes seriously the fact that America is leading by example and leading to deep reductions in pollution and climate. emissions. “
Ms. McCarthy, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration, was the architect of historic rules to reduce pollution caused by global warming. In her new role, she would be responsible for coordinating national climate change policies across the federal government.
In addition to developing the Clean Power Plan, which sets the first-ever national limits on carbon emissions from power plants, it also advanced rules to reduce mercury emissions from power plants, increase the energy efficiency of power plants. vehicles and to limit the leakage of methane from petroleum. and gas wells.
The coal, gas and oil industries opposed all of these policies, which were ultimately repealed or weakened by the Trump administration.
Ms. McCarthy’s deputy will be Ali Zaidi, New York State’s Assistant Secretary for Energy and the Environment. Mr. Zaidi worked in the Obama Administration’s Office of Management and Budget, where he helped coordinate and implement climate change policies and was a senior climate change advisor for Mr. Biden’s campaign.
John Podesta, founder of the Center for American Progress and former adviser to President Barack Obama on climate change, called Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Zaidi a “powerful team”.
Some Republicans were less enthusiastic. Wyoming Senator John Barrasso said in a statement he was concerned about the revival of Obama-era policies that he called “punishing” his state as well as others whose economies depend on fossil fuels.
“Increased innovation – not the appointment of countless uncontrolled czars – will help protect our environment without punishing our economy,” Barrasso said.
In her new role, Ms. McCarthy will be empowered to lead agency heads across the federal government to enact climate policies, from emissions rules at the EPA to financial regulations of companies in relation to their financial exposure to climate risks. .
However, it is not yet clear who will occupy her former EPA trustee position, a position that will come with the power to restore and strengthen the Obama-era climate rules that Ms McCarthy once wrote.
Mr. Biden’s first choice to lead the EPA was Mary D. Nichols, California’s leading climate change regulator. But liberal activists argued that she had not done enough in her state to address racial disparities in environmental policy.
This sparked a rush to find a new candidate to lead the agency. Opportunities now include Richard L. Revesz, professor of law and former dean of the New York University School of Law; Michael S. Regan, who currently heads the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality; and Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles.
A member of Biden’s transition staff said a final EPA choice may not come until Christmas.
Ms Granholm and Mr Buttigieg are also expected to be among Ms McCarthy’s top lieutenants in the clean energy arena.
As Chief of the Department 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 included a major loan office that supported the launch of Tesla.
The presidential transition
Several people close to the transition said advisers struggled with whether the energy department should be headed by someone grounded in its core mission of ensuring the security of the country’s nuclear arsenal, or whether Mr. Biden should choose someone with a vision to lead a clean cleanup. -energy transformation.
Ms Granholm, a longtime champion of renewable energy development, is widely recognized during her two terms as governor of Michigan for leading her state through a recession and working with the Obama administration on a bailout. the auto industry in 2009 which included clean energy investments and incentives for automakers to invest in technologies like battery storage.
After the end of her second term in 2011, she became an advocate for the development of renewable energies. She gave a TED talk on how investing in alternative energy resources can strengthen state economies, which Biden focused on in his coronavirus recovery plan.
Mr Buttigieg, as Secretary of Transportation, is expected to play a key role in setting stricter rules on car emissions, the main source of pollution from global warming in the United States, to encourage electric vehicles and to finance public transport.
“Transportation should really be seen as a green agency,” said Carol Browner, who has been President Barack Obama’s senior advisor on climate change.
During his presidential campaign, Mr. Buttigieg pledged to restore Obama-era vehicle emissions standards and called for making the United States carbon neutral by 2050.
Climate change is also expected to play a larger role in planning for infrastructure such as roads, bridges, dams and dikes, as the department takes into account new climate science showing how heat and flooding could damage these. structures, and construction and planning accordingly.
Mr. Buttigieg has often traced his awareness of the climate emergency to his experience managing two massive floods on the St. Joseph River when he was Mayor of South Bend, Ind.
Mr Biden is also reportedly set to decide who to appoint the Home Secretary, who would oversee the country’s 500 million acres of public land, including national parks, oil and gas drilling sites and habitat. endangered species. The Home Secretary is also said to be leading any effort to strengthen federal protections for vast swathes of land and water that the Trump administration has opened up to drilling, mining, logging and construction.
The lead nominee would be Rep. Deb Haaland, Democrat of New Mexico, a nomination that would resonate with symbolism. If confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Haaland would be the first Native American appointed to a cabinet secretary position.
For much of the country’s history, the Home Office ruled federal lands and often dislodged and mistreated Native Americans. Ms. Haaland is a citizen of Laguna Pueblo, one of 574 federally recognized Native American tribes.
A growing coalition of progressive Democratic groups, Native American tribal leaders and Hollywood celebrities have spent weeks campaigning for Mr. Biden to choose Ms. Haaland. These efforts have had an effect, according to the people of the transition.
However, Mr Biden is also reluctant to remove a Democrat from the House, which would temporarily diminish the already narrow majority of Democrats in the House until a special election can be held in Ms Haaland’s district.
Other candidates vying for the Home Office position are Michael Connor, a former Assistant Home Secretary in the Obama administration, who is a citizen of the Taos Pueblo tribe, and Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Brunswick. Mexico, a longtime friend of Mr. Biden who has spent his career promoting nature conservation.