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Web Date: March 4, 2013

Obama Nominates Key Officials

Administration: Experienced public servants named for environment, energy, and budget positions
Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: DOE, EPA, OMB, White House, moniz, Mccarthy, Burwell

President Barack Obama today announced nominations for three top positions in his Administration—secretary of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency administrator, and director of the Office of Management & Budget.

If confirmed by the Senate, Ernest J. Moniz, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics professor and former undersecretary of energy, will lead the DOE. At EPA. Regina A. McCarthy, current head of the agency’s Office of Air & Radiation, will take over as administrator after the recent departure of Lisa P. Jackson. And Sylvia Mathews Burwell, former deputy director of the Office of Management & Budget, was nominated to become OMB director.

When announcing Moniz’s nomination, Obama noted his Washington experience serving as undersecretary of energy for four years in the Clinton Administration. Before that, Moniz was associate director for science in the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy.

A theoretical nuclear physicist and an expert in energy technology and policy, Moniz has been a frequent witness at congressional hearings, adviser to federal expert panels, and contributor to think-tank seminars. He was a member of the President’s Blue-Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future and was key author of several key MIT reports on nuclear energy, natural gas, and coal.

He also is the founding director of the MIT Energy Initiative, created in 2006 to focus MIT science and policy activities to global energy systems research. The initiative has supported nearly 800 research projects and has 23 industry and public research partners, MIT says.

Moniz takes the DOE helm from another physicist, Steven Chu. Like Chu, Moniz has deep experience in both academia and government. Moniz’s nomination was given tentative endorsements by energy, science, and environmental organizations, but withholding comment were most fossil-fuel-focused organizations.

McCarthy began directing EPA’s air office in 2009 after serving as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and holding several regulatory positions in Massachusetts. Her work at EPA was endorsed by environment groups, but industry groups have expressed concerns about Clean Air Act rules issued under her leadership.

“Every American is—or will soon be—breathing cleaner air because of McCarthy,” says Frank O’Donnell, president of the environmental group Clean Air Watch. “As the head of EPA’s air division, she spearheaded vital public health protections, including historic mercury controls for coal-fired power plants, tougher new air quality standards for fine-particle soot, and landmark greenhouse gas standards for cars and trucks.”

William E. Allmond IV, a vice president of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates (SOCMA), a trade organization, calls McCarthy a “worthy candidate” who has 25 years of government service, noting her time in state government.

“Though we may not always agree on policy issues, we believe McCarthy has an understanding of issues impacting specialty chemical manufacturers and SOCMA members,” Allmond says. “She is aware of the significant costs regulations impose on small businesses, an awareness that is essential for anyone who serves in the position of EPA administrator.”

The American Chemistry Council, an association of chemical producers, expresses similar sentiments. “McCarthy has been responsible for several rules that have important impacts on our industry, and in our experience she has listened carefully to all stakeholders and based her decisions in sound science.”

Burwell is another nominee with deep Washington roots, having served as OMB deputy director in the Clinton Administration. More recently, she ran the Wal-Mart Foundation, the retailer’s philanthropic arm, and served as president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program.

Burwell has a reputation as a conciliator and is likely to work well with Congress on budget issues, says Patrick Lester, federal fiscal policy director at the Center for Effective Government, a watchdog group. Lester and Burwell both worked in the Clinton White House.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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