* EPA pick to face tough questioning in Senate
* Energy choice puts another scientist in top spot
* Team to carry out renewed Obama fight against climate
(Adds quote from former EPA official)
By Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, Feb 20 President Barack Obama
intends to nominate air quality expert Gina McCarthy to lead the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and nuclear physicist
Ernest Moniz to head the Department of Energy as early as this
week, according to a source familiar with the process.
McCarthy would likely become the face of Obama's latest push
to fight climate change. Currently the assistant administrator
for the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, she would replace Lisa
Jackson, who stepped down as EPA chief this month.
Moniz, a former undersecretary of energy during the Clinton
administration, is director of the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology's Energy Initiative, a research group that gets
funding from industry heavyweights including BP, Chevron
, and Saudi Aramco for academic work on projects aimed at
reducing greenhouse gases.
Moniz would replace Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning
physicist, who is stepping down.
The source said announcements of the two nominations were
possible this week but were more likely to come later.
McCarthy has the respect of environmental groups and a
reputation for working well with utilities and state regulators,
which bear the brunt of implementing EPA rules.
But she will face tough questions from Republican lawmakers
who believe the EPA has gone too far in its rules, which they
argue have hurt the economy.
Obama has taken up climate change as one of his main
second-term challenges, warning during his State of the Union
speech to Congress that his administration would consider taking
executive actions to fight the problem if lawmakers fail to
revive a market-based system to regulate carbon emissions.
The EPA would likely be the agency to implement such
"Gina is a true-blue environmentalist, but she is at least
willing to make changes when people have legitimate concerns,"
said Jeffrey Holmstead, a former EPA official who held
McCarthy's current job in President George W. Bush's
administration and is now a lobbyist for energy interests.
He said he expected the Senate to confirm McCarthy because
she had shown a willingness to work with industry.
A Boston native, McCarthy came to Washington after serving
as the top environmental regulator in Massachusetts and
Connecticut under Democratic and Republican governors.
Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, a Democrat,
appointed her chairwoman of a council to oversee a review of a
proposed hazardous waste incinerator in the Boston area in 1990.
She later served as an environmental policy adviser to
then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and launched the state's
first Climate Protection Action Plan. Romney was Obama's
Republican opponent in the 2012 presidential election.
In 2004, McCarthy was appointed to head Connecticut's
Department of Environmental Protection under then-Governor Jodi
Rell, also a Republican, and helped lead the state into a carbon
cap-and-trade system for Northeastern states, known as the
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
SCIENTIST AT THE HELM
By choosing Moniz, Obama would put another scientist at the
head of the Department of Energy, despite a sometimes rocky
tenure for Chu.
At MIT, Moniz led intensive studies about the future of
coal, nuclear energy and natural gas, and he helped attract
funding and research momentum to energy projects on campus.
People familiar with Moniz's work said, if chosen, he would
bring his own energy and pragmatism to the job.
"He has a kind of boundless enthusiasm that's infectious,"
said George Shultz, a former secretary of state in the Reagan
administration who is head of an advisory committee for the MIT
"He knows a lot about the subject in all its dimensions,"
Some green groups are skeptical about Moniz because of his
support for natural gas and have started petitions against his
They are wary of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a
method used by gas drillers to blast sand, water and chemicals
into layers of shale to unleash natural gas trapped deep beneath
Moniz earned kudos for a pragmatic approach toward using
research to find ways to reduce carbon pollution from fossil
fuels and transition to cleaner forms of energy.
"It's clearly part of his DNA," said Phil Sharp, a former
congressman who now leads the research group Resources for the
Future and has worked with Moniz on panels.
"Those in the advocacy community who are really deep in the
substance find they can work with him," Sharp said.
(Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Timothy Gardner;
Editing by Alistair Bell and Eric Beech)