Biden transition team for environment, transportation includes former Obama officials

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Joe Biden’s transition teams for the Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department will be run by several agency alumni who served under President Barack Obama and helped craft regulations like the Clean Power Plan and tougher fuel economy standards for vehicles.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden departs after spending the day at the theater serving as his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The head of the EPA team is Patrice Simms, an environmental attorney at Earthjustice - which has filed over 100 lawsuits against President Donald Trump’s administration. He worked as deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s environment division.

Other Obama EPA lawyers have also been named, including Joe Goffman, general counsel at the agency under Obama EPA chief Gina McCarthy, and Cynthia Giles, who was assistant administrator in the EPA’s enforcement office.

The Trump administration rolled back Obama-era fuel economy standards and stripped California of the ability to set zero emission vehicle rules. Both actions remain under appeal.

Biden vows to “establish ambitious fuel economy standards” and to negotiate them with workers, environmentalists, automakers and states.

Biden’s Transportation Department team is headed by Phillip Washington, chief executive of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

It also includes New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, a former Transportation official under Obama, and Therese McMillan, former acting head of the Federal Transit Administration under Obama.

For the Interior Department, Biden named former Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn to head up the transition, signaling an emphasis on indigenous representation at the agency that oversees federal and tribal lands.

Other Obama era Interior officials on the team include Elizabeth Klein, former deputy assistant secretary, policy, management & budget, who has been working with an organization representing state attorneys general challenging the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks, and Kate Kelly, a senior adviser to former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

The team also includes Maggie Thomas, previously a climate policy adviser to Senator Elizabeth Warren and Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

The Energy Department transition team is headed by Arun Majumdar, former head of the agency’s advanced research division called ARPA-E. Dan Arvizu, former head of the National Renewable Energy Lab, and Jonathan Elkind, former international energy and climate policy official under Obama are also on the team.

In the State Department transition team, Biden named one of the key legal architects of the Paris Agreement, Sue Biniaz, as a member, signaling the agency will prioritize international climate diplomacy under Biden.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and David Shepardson; Editing by Peter Cooney