December 10, 2008 / 4:16 PM / 9 years ago

Obama taps LA official as environment council head

CHICAGO (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Nancy Sutley, a deputy mayor of Los Angeles, to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality, a Democratic official said on Wednesday.

Sutley has a long history in the environmental community. She is currently deputy mayor for energy and environment for Los Angeles and served on the California State Water Resources Control Board earlier this decade.

The Council on Environmental Quality has gained prominence in the last eight years as the voice of Bush administration environmental policy. Council chief James Connaughton, has articulated White House opposition to mandatory economy-wide limits on emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide.

Obama favors capping carbon emissions that spur global warming, and on Tuesday said he will adopt an aggressive approach to fight climate change when he takes over the presidency on January 20.

Sutley has a long background as an environmental policy-maker, serving from 2003 to 2005 on the California State Water Resources Control Board, which is responsible for protecting water quality and resources throughout California.

She also served as former California Gov. Gray Davis’ energy adviser, managing state and federal regulatory and financial matters among other duties, and was deputy secretary for policy and intergovernmental relations at the California Environmental Protection Agency.

During the Clinton administration, Sutley was senior policy adviser to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional administrator in San Francisco and a special assistant at EPA headquarters in Washington.

California, the most populous U.S. state, has pushed for environmental action under Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, most notably asking the federal government to approve tougher pollution standards for cars and light trucks; the Bush administration denied that request.

Los Angeles, known for its car culture and air pollution, has taken steps to cut its carbon footprint, according to Anna Soellner of the Center for American Progress.

“L.A. has been doing quite a bit of really big-picture thinking when it comes to energy and environment and that’s what (Sutley) has been doing,” Soellner said from Los Angeles.

The city recently approved a higher sales tax to cover transportation initiatives including expanding the subway system to address pollution and congestion, Soeller said.

Reporting by Steve Holland and Deborah Zabarenko

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