(Reuters) - President-elect Joe Biden is expected as soon as Wednesday to name key members of his core team that will help him overhaul U.S. energy and environment policy to fight climate change, with a goal of bringing the economy to net-zero emissions by 2050.
A key part of his campaign, his climate and environmental justice 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.
It also aims to tackle racial and economic inequality by addressing air and water pollution in minority, low-income areas located at the fenceline of major industrial facilities by directing investment and strengthening enforcement of polluters, among other measures.
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 emerged as a surprise favorite to lead the agency. In his North Carolina role, he’s been part of a push to hold big companies like Duke Energy Corp accountable for pollution and push utilities to adopt more renewable energy. 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 here.
* 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 here.
* 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.
* Richard Revesz, NYU School of Law Institute for Policy Integrity:
The law professor and former dean of NYU law school is an expert in environmental regulation and has been a constant critic of the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda. Revesz has also been floated as a possible director of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a key position that oversees regulations to ensure that they can survive judicial review and legal challenges.
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.
Granholm is also being considered for the role of Energy Secretary (see others below), according to two sources familiar with the deliberations.
* Deb Haaland, U.S. representative, New Mexico:
The New Mexico Democrat would be the first Native American to head a cabinet agency. Her historic 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 here 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 here, and that President Donald Trump's moves to open new parts of the Arctic to drilling would be quickly challenged.
* Michael Connor, attorney, WilmerHale:
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, Howard Goller and Neil Fullick.
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