Confirmation hearings are pending for President Barack Obama’s nominees to lead the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency.
With Sally Jewell’s confirmation as Secretary of the Interior Department expected later this month, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency fall next in line for new leaders.
Gina McCarthy — nominated to head EPA — is the agency’s assistant administrator for air and radiation. Ernest Moniz, the Energy Secretary nominee, is a physicist and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative.
McCarthy is known as a data and fact-driven dealmaker who has pushed through relatively strict air-quality regulations in the past four years by focusing on protecting public health, The Washington Post reported, while at the same time shutting down greenhouse-gas emitting power plants. Despite serving in Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s administration, The Hill reported, she will likely face criticism from Republican lawmakers for her role in crafting the air pollution rules. Some GOP legislators argue that the rules, which limit oil and gas emissions and add greenhouse-gas emissions limits for new plants, are a financial burden for businesses.
Moniz is a proponent of natural gas development and hydraulic fracturing. He asserted three years ago, while introducing a 2010 MIT report, that shale gas will be a transitional fuel source for the next few decades, National Journal reported. Moniz served under President Bill Clinton as undersecretary for Energy from 1997 to 2001, and during the Obama administration as a Science and Technology Advisory Council member since 2009.
McCarthy and Moniz’s selections, The New York Times reported, are a strategic decision by President Obama. Both are politically savvy and experienced allies for the president’s oft-stated goal to respond to climate change. The president, who has executive authorities and regulatory influence, will rely especially heavily on his cabinet if Congress is unwilling to act.
But Moniz’s support for hydraulic fracturing and shale gas could open a divide with the president’s allies in the environmental community. Nor is it clear where McCarthy will go with the EPA’s work in reviewing the risks to the climate from the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport carbon-saturated tar sands oil from Canada to American refineries.
The EPA and Energy Department complement the Interior Department’s role in guiding U.S. water, food, and energy systems’ development. EPA enforces Safe Drinking Water act regulations, monitors groundwater, river, and stream quality and enforces protections for each, cleans and restores lakes, and protects wetlands. The Department of Energy focuses on scientific and technological innovation for energy supply and distribution in the U.S., as well as nuclear security.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will host McCarthy’s nomination hearing. Moniz appears before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Neither hearing has been scheduled.
is a Washington, D.C–based correspondent for Circle of Blue. He graduated from DePauw University as a Media Fellow with a B.A. in Conflict Studies. He co-writes The Stream, a daily summary of global water news.