NPR logo Obama Names Energy, Environmental Team


Obama Names Energy, Environmental Team

President-elect Obama formally announced the members of his energy and environment teams Monday, making good on promises to focus on global warming with the appointment of a strong slate of candidates that includes Nobel laureate Steven Chu.

NPR has also confirmed that Obama will name Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan as education secretary.

Obama said his energy appointees will aim to make public buildings more efficient, modernize the electricity grid, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and preserve natural resources.

"The team that I have assembled here today is uniquely suited to meet the great challenges of this defining moment. They are leading experts and accomplished managers, and they are ready to reform government and help transform our economy so that our people are more prosperous, our nation is more secure and our planet is protected," Obama said before introducing his "green team" at an afternoon news conference in Chicago.

Chu was selected to lead the Energy Department; Lisa Jackson, former commissioner of New Jersey's Environmental Protection Department, was Obama's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition, former EPA chief Carol Browner got the nod to head a new council to coordinate White House energy, climate and environment policy. Nancy Sutley, Los Angeles deputy mayor for energy and the environment, was tapped to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

At a meeting with former Vice President Al Gore last week, Obama promised that addressing global climate change will get top priority in the new administration.

"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," Obama said after his meeting with Gore, who won a Nobel Prize for his work on global warming.

Obama said he will push for changes in the way Americans use energy and produce greenhouse gases as part of an economic stimulus package that aims to create 2.5 million jobs. The action will come as the international community tries to craft a new treaty limiting greenhouse gases that will replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which the U.S. did not ratify because of opposition from the Bush administration.

Obama said he will announce his choice for secretary of the Interior Department later this week. Monday's appointees reflected vast experience in environmental and energy issues.

• Chu, 60, is the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley. He has been an advocate for research into global warming and the need for carbon-neutral renewable sources of energy. Chu, who shared a Nobel Prize in physics in 1997, has focused the lab's resources on production of biofuels and solar energy research, according to the laboratory.

• Jackson, 46, is a Princeton University-trained chemical engineer who has worked in government for more than 20 years. Earlier this month, she became chief of staff to New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, but she had previously served as the state's chief environmental enforcement officer. In that capacity, Jackson worked with communities and businesses on initiatives to clean up and protect New Jersey's water, air and soil, according to the agency. She also worked for the EPA for 16 years in several capacities, including acting as an administrator in the Superfund program to clean up hazardous waste sites.

• Browner, who turns 53 on Tuesday, is slated to head a new White House council coordinating agencies that play a role in environmental and energy policy. She served as EPA chief under President Bill Clinton for nearly eight years — the longest-serving administrator in the agency's history, the EPA said. Under Browner, the EPA moved to set stricter standards for particulate matter and smog and undertook other actions to reduce air pollution, including entering partnerships with automakers to produce cleaner cars, according to the EPA.

• Sutley, 46, is a Los Angeles deputy mayor and represents Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on the board of directors for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which is responsible for protecting the state's water resources. Sutley has more than a decade of experience in environmental policy issues at the state and federal levels, working for the California Environmental Protection Agency from 1999-2003 and as a senior policy adviser for the EPA during the Clinton administration.