Biden’s Picks Indicate Ambitious Clean-Energy, Climate Agenda
President-elect Joe Biden is making it clear that he intends to embark on an ambitious clean-energy and climate agenda, announcing a diverse and high-profile group of energy veterans to tackle the role.
One of Biden’s first personnel picks was Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry as a special presidential envoy for climate. This was the strongest signal yet that Biden plans to make climate change a central issue in his administration.
In December, he continued to assemble the team, tapping Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan, to lead the Energy Department, and Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to run a new White House office on climate change. He picked North Carolina regulator Michael Regan as EPA Administrator. Regan has guided initiatives to promote environmental justice and combat climate change and has been at the center of disputes over new natural gas pipelines
For the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Biden nominated Brenda Mallory, a former general counsel at the agency that plays a critical role in coordinating government decisions on energy projects, from pipelines to offshore wind farms.
All the nominees will be crucial to remaking regulatory policy and repositioning the U.S. as an aggressive player in the global campaign against climate change. Biden has proposed a $2 trillion clean-energy plan, with a goal of making the electric grid emissions-free by 2035 and reaching an economy-wide, net-zero emissions target just 15 years later. The prospects for Congressional action on energy and climate – while better than before the Democrats won the two run-off elections in Georgia – are still relatively dim. Even though Democrats will have effective control of the Senate, they have only a one vote majority (51-50). Senate rules require 60 votes to block a filibuster, except in rare circumstances, like personnel nominations and the once-a-year budget reconciliation process. As a result, the biggest changes to climate and energy policies will likely take place by Executive Order or through the regulatory agencies, through rulemakings.
McCarthy is a known commodity, having led the EPA’s efforts to implement the Clean Power Plan, the controversial federal government program that instituted the first-ever limits on greenhouse gas releases from power plans. McCarthy currently heads the National Resources Defense Council, where she has vocally criticized the Trump administration’s moves to ease environmental regulations.
In other picks of interest to the terminal industry, Biden named Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to be his transportation secretary, assigning a one-time rival an important role in fulfilling a campaign pledge to “build back better.” Buttigieg would be the first openly gay member of a president’s cabinet. Biden also chose Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico as his interior secretary. If confirmed, Haaland would be the first Native American cabinet secretary in American history.