Sunday, December 14, 2008

Obama to announce energy, environment cabinet picks

Obama to announce energy, environment cabinet picks

CHICAGO (AFP) — President-elect Barack Obama is expected to announce on Monday cabinet picks to head the US agencies tasked with making America more energy efficient and ecologically friendly.

Obama's transition team said he would hold a press conference "to discuss the nation's energy and environmental future."

News reports said the president-elect Obama was likely to announce that Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu has been chosen to take the helm of the Department of Energy.

Lisa Jackson, 46, chief of staff for the governor of the northeastern state of New Jersey and the state's former top environmental official, is expected to be named to head the US Environmental Protection Agency, news reports said.

Obama was also expected to announce that Carol Browner, who served as EPA administrator under president Bill Clinton and who leads the Obama transition team's working group on energy and environmental issues, will become the White House "climate czar," a post could include some of the responsibilities previously under EPA.

Chu, 60, a scientist and Washington outsider, won his Nobel in 1997. Since 2004 he has been running the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, which has a budget of 645 million dollars and a staff of 4,000.

As energy secretary, Chu is expected to lead Obama's ambitious agenda to generate 2.5 million new jobs through "green" and new technology aimed at making America more energy efficient and more energy independent.

He shared his Nobel Prize with fellow researchers William Phillips of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji of the College de France and Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris.

Jackson, who trained as a chemical engineer, is expected to restore the teeth to EPA oversight, which during the Bush administration saw its funding slashed, scientific findings censored, and enforcement efforts downplayed.

The agency also allegedly ignored findings and recommendations by its own scientists. In one particularly notorious example, the EPA backed off a finding that said climate change was a risk to public welfare. The findings would have led to the nation's first mandatory global-warming regulations.

In a statement released last week, as reports swirled about her impending nomination, officials from her home state praised Jackson, who began her career in the EPA's Superfund office in Washington, overseeing toxic site cleanups.

"From fighting global warming and promoting a clean energy future to improving the quality of our air and water, she understands we need real leadership to rebound from the neglect of the last eight years," New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg said in a statement Friday.

Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club's New Jersey chapter, hailed her work on addressing global warming, coastal concerns and other key environmental issues.

"New Jersey is a sort of a laboratory for environmental policy," Tittel said. "It gives you a broad background to run the EPA."

Browner, who turns 53 on Tuesday, headed the EPA during the Clinton Administration.

She has called for a sharp break from the policies of the Bush administration, which the Bush record, which, according to media reports, she has called "The worst environmental administration ever."

Browner sits on the boards of various environmentally-friendly groups, including the Audubon Society, the League of Conservation Voters and the Alliance for Climate Protection, which advocates control of greenhouse gases.

In another Obama appointment, Nancy Sutley is expected to be named chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

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