Obama To Unveil Environmental Team President-elect Barack Obama is expected to announce his picks for his energy and environment team at a Chicago news conference. Nobel laureate Steven Chu is expected to be Obama's energy secretary; Lisa Jackson is likely to be named the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
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Obama To Unveil Environmental Team

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Obama To Unveil Environmental Team

Obama To Unveil Environmental Team

Obama To Unveil Environmental Team

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President-elect Barack Obama is expected to announce his picks for his energy and environment team at a Chicago news conference. Nobel laureate Steven Chu is expected to be Obama's energy secretary; Lisa Jackson is likely to be named the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris. President-elect Barack Obama introduces his energy and environmental team at a news conference today. Leading the so-called Obama Green Team as energy secretary would be Steven Chu. He shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 1997. Mr. Obama also is expected to face questions about contacts between his staff and Governor Rod Blagojevich in connection with filling the president-elect's Senate seat. NPR's Brian Naylor is waiting for today's Chicago news conference. He joins us now from the Drake Hotel. And Brian, before we get to the environmental picks, the questions the president might face regarding the corruption scandal involving Governor Rod Blagojevich. What's the latest on that right now?

BRIAN NAYLOR: Michele, the Obama transition team put out a statement this afternoon that says according to their internal review, President-elect Obama had no, quote, "inappropriate discussions," end of quote, with Governor Blagojevich or his staff about the vacant Senate seat. The statement says the office will not release the review until next week at the request of the prosecutors so as not to impede their investigation.

NORRIS: Before we go on to the so-called Green Team, I just want to ask you about another Senate vacancy that's getting a lot of attention today. That's Hillary Clinton's New York Senate seat. We've heard for the first time of Caroline Kennedy's official interest. What might this mean?

NAYLOR: All the parties involved are being very coy, and no one's speaking for attribution, but apparently Caroline Kennedy, who served on President-elect Obama's vice presidential vetting team, but otherwise doesn't have a great degree of government experience, but she apparently is interested in taking the seat that Hillary Clinton now holds.

NORRIS: Brian, let's get to the business at hand there at the Drake Hotel. The president-elect will be rolling out that so-called the Green Team. Who do we expect to see today?

NAYLOR: Well, there'll be a number of appointees. Carol Browner, who was the environmental - the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Clinton administration, is going to be named to head a new policy council inside the White House that is expected to coordinate climate, environment, and energy issues, that sort of thing. Steven Chu, as you mentioned earlier, is going to be the nominee for secretary of energy. He's a Nobel Laureate in physics and has spoken - been outspoken about the need to address climate change. Lisa Jackson, who has served on the staff of the governor of New Jersey, is going to become the nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency. And we're also hearing that a deputy mayor of Los Angeles, Nancy Sutley, will be named to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which is another administration job that deals with the environment and climate change and those kinds of issues.

NORRIS: Now a bit of trivia, Brian. I'm not sure you know the answer to this question right off the top of your head, but Steven Chu, as we noted, shared a Nobel Prize for physics back in the 1990s. Would this be the first Nobel laureate to serve in a Cabinet position?

NAYLOR: Well, as far as I know, it would be, Michele. There are other Nobel laureates who have become Nobel laureates after serving in the administration. But as far as I know, no Nobel laureate has served in administration already having been awarded the Nobel. This would be a first.

NORRIS: That's NPR's Brian Naylor speaking to us from Chicago. Brian, thanks so much.

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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.