Biden's energy and climate "dream team" & passing the "climate purity" test for nominees

A newsletter for people "woke" on carbon and climate

(source: Business Insider)

Issue No. 57

Welcome to the latest issue of Carbon Creed - a curated newsletter for people “woke” on carbon and climate. 

Biden announced his energy and climate “dream team” this week

About his incoming energy and climate team, Biden this week said in a statement: "This brilliant, tested, trailblazing team will be ready on day one to confront the existential threat of climate change with a unified national response rooted in science and equity. They share my belief that we have no time to waste to confront the climate crisis, protect our air and drinking water, and deliver justice to communities that have long shouldered the burdens of environmental harms."


IN THIS ISSUE 
we focus on energy and climate leadership under the new Biden-Harris administration. The official bios of each nominee/appointee can be found on the transition website, and a video of the live announcement can be found here. We also consider the pros and cons of some environmental groups applying a “climate purity” test to a Biden team nominee.

If you have an opinion on this or any other topic covered in this newsletter, please feel free to send me an email at mcleodwl@carboncreed.com. 

Thank you for your viewpoint and the value of your time.

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NOW, LET’S GO DEEP!


GOVERNMENT

(source: Harvard University)

Gina McCarthy

White House Climate Coordinator

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has selected Gina McCarthy, the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama and the architect of some of his most far-reaching regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions, to serve as senior White House adviser on climate change.

As White House adviser, Ms. McCarthy will coordinate domestic climate policies across the United States government, playing a central role in helping Mr. Biden make good on his campaign promise of putting the United States on track to reach carbon neutrality before 2050.

Ms. McCarthy, who has served since January as president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, joins the ranks of high-profile former Obama administration officials given top positions in the Biden administration. Advocates for stronger action to fight climate change said her nomination would send a signal that the administration was prepared to bypass Congress and enact measures using executive authority to begin bringing down greenhouse gases.

(source: Bloomberg)

Brenda Mallory

Chair, WH Council on Environmental Quality

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has selected Brenda Mallory, an environmental lawyer who spent more than 15 years working in the federal government under both Republican and Democratic presidents, to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The council is expected to expand its focus on issues of environmental justice under Ms. Mallory in addition to its traditional role of coordinating environment policy throughout the government.

Ms. Mallory, who currently serves as the director of regulatory policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center, a watchdog group, has worked on both pollution and land conservation issues throughout her career, including helping to create new national monuments under the Obama administration and fighting the dismantlement of those monuments under the Trump administration.

(source: Michigan Public Radio)

Jennifer Granholm

Energy Secretary

President-elect Joseph R. Biden will nominate Jennifer M. Granholm, a former governor of Michigan and a longtime champion of renewable energy development, to be the next secretary of energy.

If confirmed, Ms. Granholm will be the second woman, after Hazel R. O’Leary, who served under President Bill Clinton, to lead the vast department, which oversees the United States nuclear weapons complex as well as 17 national laboratories and a wide range of energy research and development initiatives.

Advisers had struggled over whether the Energy Department should be led by someone steeped in its core mission, ensuring the safety of the country’s nuclear arsenal, or whether Mr. Biden should select someone with a vision for leading a clean-energy transformation.

The decision to choose Ms. Granholm was seen as a nod to environmental groups, some of which had waged a campaign against Ernest J. Moniz, a former energy secretary who had long been seen as the front-runner to take the helm of department a second time.

(source: Atlantic Council)

Pete Buttigieg

Transportation Secretary

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will nominate Pete Buttigieg to be secretary of transportation, selecting a former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and former opponent who would bring a younger voice to the cabinet and become its first openly gay member.

Mr. Buttigieg, 38, a Rhodes scholar and Afghanistan veteran, emerged during the Democratic primaries to wage a fierce battle for the party’s presidential nomination before bowing out and endorsing Mr. Biden. The two men bonded during the general election campaign, and the president-elect made it clear that he wanted to find a place for Mr. Buttigieg in his administration.

During the campaign, the former mayor proved himself to be among the Democratic Party’s most skilled communicators. Mr. Buttigieg as transportation secretary would be a key player in advancing Mr. Biden’s ambitious agenda on both rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and on climate change, one of the most important priorities for the new administration.

The Transportation Department under Mr. Biden is expected to play a newly climate-centric role, particularly because of the agency’s authority to regulate vehicle emissions, the leading source of climate-warming pollution in the United States, to encourage electric vehicles and to provide funding for mass transit.

(source: New York Times)

Michael Regan

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has selected Michael S. Regan, North Carolina’s top environmental regulator, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. The decision elevates for the first time a Black man to lead the powerful department, which is central to achieving the new administration’s climate change agenda.

Environmental activists in North Carolina praised Mr. Regan’s work in the state. He is credited with reaching the largest coal-ash cleanup settlement in the country and for ordering the chemical company Chemours, a former DuPont subsidy, to take fresh steps to clean up the toxic substances known as PFAS from the Cape Fear River

Mr. Regan also has been a key figure in helping Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, carry out his pledge to achieve carbon neutrality in North Carolina by 2050, and oversees the state’s climate change interagency council, a working group of state agencies set up to meet that goal. In 2018 he created an environmental justice and equity board at the state’s environmental agency.


(source: UPI)

Deb Haaland

Interior Secretary

In a historic decision, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has chosen Deb Haaland, a congressional representative from New Mexico and a Native American, to lead the Interior Department, an agency that for much of the nation’s history played a central role in the dislocation and abuse of Indigenous communities.

If confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Haaland would be the first Native American to lead a cabinet-level agency. She would oversee a sprawling department responsible for some 500 million acres of public lands, including national parks, oil and gas drilling sites and endangered species habitat.

Ms. Haaland would play a major role in implementing Mr. Biden’s promised climate change agenda and working to strengthen federal protections for vast swaths of territory that the Trump administration has opened up to drilling, mining, logging and construction.

[This post was compiled from several summaries published in The New York Times.] 

Creed Comments: The final roster for the Biden energy-climate team had a few pleasant surprises - chief among them was the historic choice of Deb Haaland for Interior Secretary. Appointing a Native American to lead this massive land holding agency is enough to make me cry (not like the bogus KAB ad). The symbolism of handing oversight of vast U.S. public lands to the indigenous forebears of those lands, marks a pivotal moment in American history. Well done team Biden.

Technically, Pete Buttigieg is on the Domestic team, but I include him with my energy and climate picks because so much of his portfolio will be focused on clean infrastructure and decarbonizing transportation. He’s very sharp and I suspect we’ll see big things from Pete.

Finally, a bow and hat tip to climate veterans Brenda Mallory and Gina McCarthy. Both women are tremendously accomplished and bring the necessary gravitas to their roles. They will be a dynamic duo in the west wing.

And congratulation to Jennifer Granholm and Michael Regan, both fine choices that I look forward to seeing in action.

Note: Ali Daili, nominee for Deputy National Climate Advisor, was featured in a prior issue of creed.


Biden nominee faces “climate purity” test to lead National Economic Council

(source: MIT Energy Conference)

Many green activists are insisting Biden reject anyone for posts in his administration who previously worked with fossil fuel companies or Wall Street firms that invested in coal, oil or natural gas. But that no-compromise stance is causing splits inside the climate movement, since it would rule out some top Obama administration hands with years of experience from helping implement the climate policies that Biden has said would be a centerpiece of his presidency.

The crossfire erupted this week after reports that Biden would appoint Brian Deese to lead the National Economic Council. Deese is a former Barack Obama adviser who spearheaded some of the former president's most successful climate moves, but he has since joined BlackRock to help the investment management giant bring climate change into its decision-making.

“Litmus tests are not helpful if that’s all you look at,” said Christy Goldfuss, who worked with Deese as head of Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality and now leads energy and environmental policy at the Center for American Progress. “[The activitsts] are right to be righteous but they need allies on the inside that are equally focused on making progress and moving the levers on the inside. It takes both.”

Despite praise from some green luminaries, Deese's work at BlackRock prompted groups like the Revolving Door Project to warn against his hire. Activists note the climate crisis has only worsened over the past four years, and the lost time means protecting the planet now requires a more aggressive effort by a government free of people who may be sympathetic to the fossil fuels that are blamed for the problem.

Biden was never the first choice of the environmental movement, which favored the more aggressive strategies laid out by Sen. Bernie Sanders or Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. But a summer reset of the Biden climate plan that led to his call for a $2 trillion effort to refocus the U.S. economy toward clean energy helped draw climate-minded voters to him. Those voters, who have been dismissive of the Obama administration's achievements, and some of the newer climate advocacy groups are worried that Biden may return to a more moderate plan, and they've vowed to keep up the pressure on him.

Sunrise’s national office called on Deese to distinguish his owns views from those of BlackRock, since many activists believe the firm has not lived up to CEO Larry Fink’s January pledge to divest from and vote against the boards of some fossil fuel companies over climate-related policies.

“Ultimately it’s going to be on Brian to prove his commitment, to prove that he understands the urgency of these issues and frankly to distance himself from some of the bad practices of BlackRock and the Obama administration’s failure to address the seriousness of this crisis,” Sunrise national political director Evan Weber said. “To all the people who say he’ll lead with urgency, I hope they’re right.”

Deese did not enter government through the climate movement, but worked on the Obama cash-for-clunkers program that took millions of gas-guzzling vehicles off the road and later he helped design the auto industry bailout that yielded aggressive vehicle fuel economy standards — the single-greatest emissions-reducing policy of Obama’s tenure, but which was significantly weakened under President Donald Trump. Deese later took over the climate portfolio and helped deliver the 2015 Paris climate accord, as well as agreements to phase out heat-trapping refrigerants and expand conservation for lands and oceans, including the Alaskan Arctic.

Regardless of who takes the top NEC job, some environmental groups acknowledge the prospect of Biden having a top economic adviser with a climate background is exactly what activists have sought, and it will help the new president incorporate climate concerns into policies to steer everything from an economic recovery from the pandemic to healthcare costs to infrastructure spending.

[This post was adapted from the full story written by Zack Colman and published in Politico.] 

Creed Comments: Appointing Brian Dees to lead the National Economic Council is an excellent move. He is exactly the type of person president-elect Biden will need to navigate and address the complex economic issues associated with decarbonizing the U.S. economy.

To the purists I say, you will be hard pressed to find anyone better qualified on “day one” to lead this historic effort. Furthermore, I would argue that Dees connections to BlackRock will be a plus for the administration during the climate policy implementation phase. This choice is true to Biden’s moderate picks thus far, and should help him secure early successes and alliances on the hill and with the financial industry.


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