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Obama Announces Nominations for Secretaries of Energy and Interior and New EPA Administrator

03.18.2013

On March 4, 2013, President Obama announced the nominations of physicist Ernest Moniz as the next Secretary of Energy and Gina McCarthy as the next Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.  Obama previously nominated Sally Jewell as the next Secretary of the Interior.

McCarthy previously served as EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation and would replace former EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, who left the post on February 14th.  McCarthy previously oversaw the establishment of EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulatory Program.  Under her watch, EPA issued its 2009 determination that greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles pose a threat to public health and the environment and should be regulated, as well as its subsequent emission standards for passenger vehicles and medium- and heavy-duty trucks.  McCarthy also established the first greenhouse gas permitting program through the Tailoring Rule, which limited the applicability of the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) requirements to only the largest stationary sources of greenhouse gas emissions.  Additionally, EPA also proposed its first source-specific greenhouse gas emission standard for new fossil fuel-fired power plants.

In addition to her efforts on climate change issues, McCarthy’s office attempted to replace the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) with the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR).  However, the D.C. Circuit Court of appeals struck down CSAPR.  Under McCarthy’s leadership, EPA also set stringent emissions limits for mercury and air toxics from power plants, commonly known as the Mercury Air Toxics Standard (MATS).  This rule is currently being challenged in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Both of these rules were among the most high profile rules EPA issued during Obama’s first term.  Before coming to EPA, McCarthy served as Commissioner of the Connecticut Department for Environmental Protection.

Ernest Moniz, a Physics Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will replace Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who is leaving Washington after four years to teach at Stanford University.  Moniz previously served as Under Secretary of Energy and as Associate Director for Science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.  Moniz has served as head of the MIT Energy Initiative, which conducts energy research projects and is largely funded by energy companies.  He has been a strong supporter of natural gas development and nuclear energy.

Sally Jewell, who was nominated to be U.S. Interior Secretary in February, previously served as Chief Operating Officer at outdoor retailer, Recreation Equipment, Inc. (REI).  Prior to her post at REI, Jewell worked at Mobil Oil Corporation, and then moved into commercial banking.  Jewell would succeed Ken Salazar, a former Senator from Colorado who sought to strengthen oil and gas regulations after BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill, and to expand solar and wind projects on federal land.  Importantly, Jewell would oversee development of the first ever federal rules for hydrologic fracturing on public lands.  The drilling process, known as fracking, has unlocked oil and gas trapped in shale rock formations, and industry representatives have resisted environmentalists’ calls for greater oversight.

All three nominations are subject to Senate confirmation.  The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a confirmation hearing on March 7 to consider Jewell’s nomination to become the next Interior Secretary.  As of the date of publication of this newsletter, confirmation hearings for McCarthy and Moniz have yet to be scheduled.

To view a complete PDF of the January/February 2013 issue of the Environmental Letter, click HERE.

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