Obama Administration Energy Team Revealed

On Monday, President-elect Barack Obama announced key members of his energy and environment team. Dr. Steven Chu, currently the director of the Lawrence Berkley National Lab (LBNL) was named as Obama’s choice for Secretary of Energy. Lisa Jackson was chosen for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator. Nancy Sutley will become the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Carol Browner has been named as the Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change and Heather Zichal was named as Browner’s Deputy Assistant.

The choices reflect the Obama administration’s campaign promise to seriously address energy and environmental issues from the day it takes office.

“To control our own destiny, America must develop new forms of energy and new ways of using it. This is not a challenge for government alone – it is a challenge for all of us,” Obama said during his announcement. “Steven is uniquely-suited to be our next Secretary of Energy as we make this pursuit a guiding purpose of the Department of Energy, as well as a national mission. The scientists at our national labs will have a distinguished peer at the helm. His appointment should send a signal to all that my Administration will value science, we will make decisions based on the facts, and we understand that the facts demand bold action.”

LBNL released a statement recognizing that its current head is ready to bring a unique perspective to the job. The lab said that in speeches to organizations around the globe, Chu has delivered a consistent message.

“Stronger storms, shrinking glaciers and winter snowpack, prolonged droughts and rising sea levels are raising the specter of global food and water shortages. The ominous signs of climate change we see today are a warning of dire economic and social consequences for us all, but especially for the poor of the world,” Chu has said. “The path to finding solutions is to bring together the finest, most passionate minds to work on the problem in a coordinated effort, and to give these researchers the resources commensurate with the challenge.”

Since assuming the directorship of LBNL in August, 2004, Chu has focused LBNL’s considerable scientific resources on energy security and global climate change, in particular the production of new fuels and electricity from sunlight through non-food plant materials and artificial photosynthesis.

Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said that the solar industry is looking forward to working with the new energy and climate team to help grow the solar market in U.S.

“However, the new Administration and Congress will need to address a number of immediate issues to ensure that solar energy remains an economic engine in the U.S., including: fixing the solar tax credit to work in the current economic environment, enacting a tax credit for domestic solar manufacturers and increasing federal procurement of solar energy on government buildings and lands,” Resch said. “With this team in place, the U.S. is now positioned to lead the world in adressing global warming and to create the renewable energy economy here at home.”

University of California President Mark Yudof called Chu’s nomination to lead the Energy Department an inspired choice.

“Steve is a proven leader with a passion for education and science and a talent for identifying new solutions to pressing problems,” Yudof said. “While he will be greatly missed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Steve will bring to Washington a distinguished record of scientific achievement and a deep understanding of the energy, environmental and national security issues at the heart of the Department of Energy’s portfolio.”

Full Biographical information on each of the Obama Administration’s choices for energy and climate posts can be read below.

-Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy

Dr. Chu is director of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and professor of physics and molecular and cellular biology at University of California, Berkeley. Winner of the Nobel Prize for physics in 1997, Dr. Chu served on the technical staff at AT&T Bell Labs (1978 –1987) and was a professor in the Physics and Applied Physics Departments at Stanford University (1987 – 2004). One of the world’s most distinguished scientists, Dr. Chu commands deep respect from his peers, deftly manages a complex governmental organization, and has a keen sense of public service. He successfully applied the techniques he developed in atomic physics to molecular biology, and since 2004, motivated by his deep interest in climate change, he has transformed the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab into a broad and innovative research program on energy technologies. He has a BS in physics from the University of Rochester and his Ph.D from UC-Berkeley.

-Lisa Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator

Jackson became the head of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in 2006. She had previously served as DEP Deputy Commissioner before being appointed to the post by Gov. Corzine, and currently serves as Corzine’s chief of staff. Her past experience includes management responsibilities at the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office in New York for the Superfund program, the federal program regulating hazardous waste cleanup projects; for enforcement programs at both EPA and DEP; and for New Jersey’s Land Use Management Program. She is a professional engineer, having received her Master’s Degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University and her undergraduate degree from Tulane University in her hometown of New Orleans. During her tenure at NJDEP, she helped develop the Northeastern states Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), serving as Vice President of its Executive Board. She has also focused on water issues, including expanding protections for surface waters that serve as sources of drinking water and habitat for endangered species.

-Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality

Sutley currently serves as the Deputy Mayor for Energy and Environment for the City of Los Angeles, and is also Mayor Villaraigosa’s appointment to the Board of Directors for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. She has previously served on the California State Water Resources Control Board, as Energy Advisor to Governor Davis and as the Deputy Secretary for Policy and Intergovernmental Relations within the California Environmental Protection Agency. During the Clinton administration, Sutley was a Senior Policy Advisor to the Regional Administrator for EPA, Region 9 in San Francisco and a Special Assistant to the Administrator at the Federal EPA in Washington, DC. Sutley has also served as the Policy Director for the National Independent Energy Producers and as an Industry Economist for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. She received her Master’s in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University.

-Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change

Browner is Principal of The Albright Group LLC, where she provides strategic counsel in the critical areas of environmental protection, climate change, and energy conservation and security. Prior to her current position, she served as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a Cabinet-level position she held for eight years. Browner developed partnerships with business leaders, community advocates, and all levels of government. She is widely known for championing common sense, cost-effective solutions to pressing environmental and public health challenges. At EPA, she brought the climate change issue to the forefront and established climate change as an important environmental issue requiring action. Before EPA, Browner was Secretary of the State of Florida’s Department of Environmental Regulation. She also served as Legislative Director for then United States Senator Al Gore.

-Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change

Zichal currently serves as the co-chair for the Energy and Environment Policy Team for the Obama Transition Team. Zichal served as the Policy Director for Energy, Environment and Agriculture for Sen. Obama’s presidential campaign. Prior, she served as the Legislative Director to Senator John Kerry where she coordinated domestic and foreign policy. In 2004, she was responsible for the Kerry campaign’s energy and environment policies. Heather also served as Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and U.S. Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ). During her tenure on Capitol Hill, she has been highly involved in legislative initiatives to create green jobs, tackle climate change, reduce dependence on oil, and protect natural treasures like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She grew up in Iowa and is a graduate of Rutgers University.
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