FILE PHOTO: Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be Secretary of Agriculture, speaks after Biden announced his nomination among another round of nominees and appointees for his administration during a news conference at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., December 11, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
December 14, 2020
(Reuters) – President-elect Joe Biden has promised an overhaul of U.S. energy and environment policy to fight climate change, with a goal of bringing the economy to net-zero emissions by 2050.
Although still to be defined, the plan includes ramping up clean energy technology and usage, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, federal procurement of clean energy technology and re-engaging the United States in a global pact to fight warming.
Here are the people who have made Biden’s shortlist for central roles in his energy and environment agenda:
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ADMINISTRATOR
* Michael Regan, Secretary, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, since 2017
Regan has been part of a push to hold big companies like Duke Energy Corp accountable for pollution. Under his leadership of the state agency, Duke Energy agreed to the largest coal ash cleanup in the United States in January.
* Mary Nichols, chairwoman of California’s Air Resources Board
As California’s top environmental regulator, she has worked with industry and environmental groups to craft the state’s ambitious environmental regulations, from an economy-wide cap and trade program to fuel efficiency requirements for vehicles. The former EPA assistant administrator during the Clinton administration told Reuters that California’s auto emissions deal could serve as a good template for federal standards https://www.reuters.com/article/us-california-emissions-autos/california-official-sees-state-auto-emissions-deal-as-template-for-biden-idUSKBN27S3AM.
* Heather McTeer Toney, national field director of Moms Clean Air Force
A former regional EPA administrator for the U.S. Southeast during the Obama administration, Toney is a favorite of progressives. She has trained diverse officials on leadership and climate in over 15 countries, including France, Kenya, Nigeria, Portugal and Senegal. She told Reuters the agency should explore how to better use the Civil Rights Act to protect poor and minority communities from pollution https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-epa-mcteer/contender-to-lead-biden-epa-says-agency-should-focus-on-environmental-justice-idINL1N2HX2MJ.
* Collin O’Mara, chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation, the country’s biggest wildlife conservation organization
The federation advocates for the protection of wild lands and animals, as well as for outdoor enthusiasts. Previously the youngest person to head up the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, from 2009 to 2014, O’Mara has been advising Biden’s transition team on policy.
WHITE HOUSE DOMESTIC CLIMATE COORDINATOR
* Gina McCarthy, President, Natural Resources Defense Counsel
McCarthy headed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Obama administration, and was key to writing his signature climate change policy requiring steep emissions cuts from the electricity sector, the Clean Power Plan.
* Ali Zaidi, deputy secretary for Energy and Environment and chairman of Climate Policy and Finance, New York state
As deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Barack Obama, Zaidi led the administration’s implementation of the Climate Action Plan. He now leads New York’s ambitious efforts on climate policy and finance.
* Washington Governor Jay Inslee
Inslee ran in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary on a platform focused primarily on climate change. The Biden campaign embraced many of his proposed multi-sector climate change policies.
* Jennifer Granholm, adjunct professor, University of California School of Law
The former Michigan governor (2003–2011) set up a climate action policy for her state in 2007 and worked with the auto industry and the Obama administration on an auto industry bailout that would spur the deployment of low-emission or zero-emission vehicles. She wrote an opinion piece in the Detroit News about the need for a low-carbon COVID-19 economic recovery.
* Deb Haaland, U.S. representative, New Mexico
The New Mexico Democrat would be the first Native American to head a cabinet agency. Her nomination to head the department, which oversees the millions of acres of federal and tribal land, has been pushed by members of Congress, Indigenous leaders and progressive activists. She told Reuters that Interior should be “promoting and increasing clean-energy leases” on federal land https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-interior-haaland-idUKKBN27W213 and should create more national monuments.
* Tom Udall, U.S. senator, New Mexico
The son of former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, Udall is a long-time Biden friend and former aide and is retiring from the Senate this year. He told Reuters that if nominated to the post, he would set a goal to make federal lands carbon neutral by restoring and protecting forests and shrub lands so they absorb as much carbon as is produced on them https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-biden-interior/interior-department-contender-says-biden-would-target-trump-arctic-drilling-push-on-first-day-idUSKBN28323C, and that President Donald Trump’s moves to open new parts of the Arctic to drilling would be quickly challenged.
* Michael Connor, attorney, WilmerHale
Also a Native American, Connor served as deputy secretary of the Interior Department under Obama. His early work there focused on negotiations with Indian tribes, state representatives, and private water users to secure water rights settlements. He works as a lawyer on tribal, environmental and energy issues at WilmerHale, alongside former Interior Secretary and Biden friend Ken Salazar.
* Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, professor, Georgia Institute of Technology
A former adviser to Biden when he was in the U.S. Senate, she served in the Obama administration as deputy secretary of energy, where she led an initiative to address cyber and physical challenges to the power grid.
* Arun Majumdar, professor, Stanford University
Majumdar was the first director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s agency that promotes and funds research and development of advanced energy technologies and also served as acting undersecretary of energy from March 2011 to June 2012. He worked at Alphabet Inc’s Google as vice president for energy before joining Stanford’s faculty.
* Ernest Moniz, president and CEO of Energy Futures Initiative
Moniz is a nuclear physicist who served as Obama’s second energy secretary, and was a technical expert on Obama’s team that struck the 2015 deal on Iran’s nuclear program. He has been criticized by some environmental groups for supporting a role for natural gas in a U.S. transition toward zero-emissions.
* Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of U.S. Dairy Export Council
Biden plans to nominate the former Iowa governor, according to two sources familiar with the decision, a choice that would reassure farmers but disappoint climate and nutrition activists. Vilsack held the job under Obama (2009-2017) and actively campaigned for Biden in farm country, acting as his rural and agriculture adviser during the election bid.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici, Nichola Groom, Christopher Walljasper; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Howard Goller)