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Story from Energy and Environment Daily about who President-Elect Obama might pick to head EPA, Interior, Energy and Agriculture departments…plus Council on Environmental Quality who directs implementation of NEPA. 

Names fly as Obama starts assembling his administration


Darren Samuelsohn, Greenwire senior reporter

President-elect Barack Obama has turned to a cast of Clinton administration veterans to help him prepare for the government handoff from President Bush, but the Illinois Democrat also will look beyond the usual job candidates as he fills out his team.

John Podesta, Clinton's former chief of staff, started transition planning several months ago out of his office at the left-leaning Center for American Progress in Washington. On energy and environmental issues, Podesta is leaning on two of his former colleagues from the Clinton era: former U.S. EPA Administrator Carol Browner and former Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes.

Sources said today that Hayes is in charge of transition planning for U.S. EPA and the Interior, Energy and Agriculture departments, while Browner is running an energy policy group. Larger transition teams will be named for each agency in the coming days as the work shifts from Washington to Obama's campaign headquarters staff in Chicago.

Obama has already started taking initial steps toward forming his government. A top aide to the president-elect said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), a former Clinton aide, has been offered the job of White House chief of staff. It is unclear if Emanuel will take the position given his quick rise in the House Democratic leadership and longer-term sights on running for speaker of the House.

Other Obama campaign aides likely to come on board in the coming days include Valerie Jarrett and Peter Rouse as deputy White House chiefs of staff. Jarrett is a Chicago lawyer and long-time Obama adviser and Rouse serves as chief of staff in Obama's Senate office.

Attention in the immediate wake of Obama's election victory also will fall on the naming of an economic team, as well as top jobs in the State, Defense and Justice departments.

Who's who for DOE, EPA, Interior


While it is still a guessing game as to who gets tapped for top positions at the Energy Department and EPA, several sources close to the Obama campaign said the president-elect is looking to pick a high-profile person for DOE and a more state-specific expert to lead EPA.

The names mentioned for DOE include two-term Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) and two-term California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).

Rendell told a Pennsylvania television station earlier this year that he would be interested in serving in Obama's Cabinet, listing as his job preferences secretary of Energy or Transportation. But Rendell also insisted he wants to finish his term, which runs through 2010. As for Schwarzenegger, the actor-turned-politician could bring star power and experience implementing a raft of progressive climate and energy policies. But the paparazzi following the Republican governor could be seen as a distraction for the Obama White House. Schwarzenegger also campaigned as recently as last weekend for GOP presidential nominee John McCain of Arizona.

Potential picks for EPA include Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago; Mary Nichols, a Schwarzenegger appointee leading the California Air Resources Board; Lisa Jackson, the first African American woman to be named director of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and now the chief of staff for Gov. Jon Corzine (D); former New Jersey DEP chief Brad Campbell; former Pennsylvania environment secretary Kathleen McGinty; World Resources Institute President Jonathan Lash; and Ian Bowles, the head of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Besides Learner and Lash, all of the names mentioned above have experience working under Clinton. Nichols ran EPA's air pollution office, Jackson handled Superfund issues out of an EPA regional office, Campbell served at the White House Council on Environmental Quality as an associate director on toxic waste issues, McGinty was chairman of CEQ, and Bowles was an associate director at CEQ and senior director of the Global Environmental Affairs directorate at the National Security Council. Learner has known Obama since his first run for an Illinois state Senate seat in the early 1990s.

For the Council on Environmental Quality, Learner, Hayes and McGinty have been mentioned as candidates to replace Jim Connaughton, Bush's chairman for the last eight years. Learner's name also is being mentioned for a job in the West Wing, alongside Jason Grumet, executive director of the National Commission on Energy Policy and the lead coordinator of Obama's energy and environmental volunteer campaign team.

Frank Loy, Clinton's top climate negotiator, also has been mentioned as a possible White House adviser to Obama.

"It's going to be a very big issue," said one former Clinton aide familiar with Obama's transition planning. "I think there's going to be a lot of room."

At the Interior Department, sources have suggested that possible front-runners include Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D), who won a second term yesterday; Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.); and former Clinton-era Interior Solicitor General John Leshy, now a professor at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law. Leshy yesterday declined comment. Inslee said in an interview that he would not rule out joining a new Obama administration and added that he has not had any discussions about a job with the campaign.

Another question for the Obama administration is how it will reshape the government to tackle climate and energy issues.

During the Democratic primaries, Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) talked about creating a new National Energy Council akin to the National Economic Council. Other sources have suggested creating a new climate-focused czar who would work across government and represent the United States in major climate negotiations. Al Gore has been mentioned as a possible candidate, though the Nobel Prize-winning former vice president has repeatedly told reporters he is not interested in returning to government.

Dan Kammen, one of Obama's top energy advisers, said in an interview last night that he envisions a major expansion and integration of top posts in the White House and across the various agencies that deal with climate, energy and other environmental issues. This could mean everything from the start of a new Treasury undersecretary post that handles the creation and operation of carbon markets to a larger advising staff for the EPA administrator.

"This isn't just elevating the EPA secretary to the Cabinet," said Kammen, an energy technology expert at the University of California, Berkeley. "It's really a much bigger integration."

Alden Meyer, policy and strategy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, outlined several key items to think about if any of the new posts get created. "They've got to vet that with folks on the Hill," he said. "And they've got to have a direct line to the president if they're going to have any clout."

Chicago influence


Obama will enter the White House facing high expectations that he can redirect U.S. energy and environmental policy following eight years under Bush. He will also try to avoid the chaos surrounding Clinton's transition after winning the 1992 election, when the president-elect spent several weeks before naming his top White House staff.

One top Obama adviser explained that Emanuel, if he takes the job as chief of staff, will have the most important role early on in shaping the rest of the administration.

"Obama is going to move quickly to say this is my senior team in the White House," the aide said.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) offered a similar perspective in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. "We learned a lot from that experience," she said. "We need to do the people's business, we have to work together, we have to build consensus. I think Barack has shown that he understands this better than anyone."

The former Clinton adviser predicted some rough moments during the transition. "Undoubtedly, there'll be a little bit of friction as the Chicago people come to D.C.," the former Clinton aide said. "I expect a mix of Clinton veterans and Obama regulars. I think that's right. I think that happens just sort of naturally. There's a wealth of experience under the Clinton people. On the other hand, in key places, especially in the West Wing, it'd be symbolically important that on this signature issue for Obama to have his own people."

David Hamilton, director of the Sierra Club's climate program, said he is already trying to reach out to the incoming Obama team. He, too, predicted a departure from the Clinton era. "There may be an attempt to establish some independence," he said.

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