President Barack Obama will name Ernest Moniz as head of the Energy Department and Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a White House official who requested anonymity in advance of an announcement.
Moniz is a physics and engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. McCarthy is an assistant administrator for air pollution at the EPA.
While both will pick up the broad approach laid out over the past four years, they also have a political touch that analysts say will be necessary to counter longstanding criticisms from congressional Republicans and some industry lobbyists.
The two nominees would round out Obama’s second-term energy and environment team as he seeks to combat the risks associated with climate change and weighs regulation of hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique behind increasing domestic oil and natural gas production.
Obama last month nominated Sally Jewell, chief executive officer at outdoor retailer Recreation Equipment Inc., as Interior secretary, a position that oversees energy development on federal land. Moniz would replace Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize- winning physicist, who announced Feb. 1 that he’ll leave to return to academia. McCarthy would take over the EPA from Lisa Jackson, who left the agency on Feb. 14.
McCarthy currently leads the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, which during Obama’s first term issued broad regulations to cut pollution from coal-fired power plants and automobiles.
“Gina’s a true-blue environmentalist,” said Jeffrey Holmstead, a Bracewell & Giuliani LLP lobbyist who represents energy companies, including Atlanta-based Southern Co. (SO) “But I have to say she is at least willing to sit down and listen and understand the issues people have with EPA’s regulations.”
Environmentalists have praised her efforts, saying the U.S. rules would cut mercury, sulfur dioxide and other toxic emissions now responsible for causing asthma, heart attacks and premature death.
They have come under fire from Republicans in Congress, who contend the new regulations would put a drag on the economy without offering significant health benefits. That criticism probably will be renewed in McCarthy’s confirmation hearings.
McCarthy, a Boston native, worked for Republicans before joining the Obama administration, including for Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as a top state environmental official. She left to head up the Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection from 2004 to 2009, where she worked with Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell.
Moniz served as Energy Department undersecretary from 1997 to 2001 after an earlier stint as science adviser to President Bill Clinton.
He now directs MIT’s Energy Initiative, which is supported by energy companies such as BP Plc (BP/), Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) and Chevron Corp. (CVX) and has promoted natural gas as a bridge fuel -- a way to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions as cleaner sources of energy are developed.
Even while at MIT, Moniz was a frequent visitor to Washington, testifying before congressional panels on energy issues and serving both on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology as well as a blue-ribbon commission Obama formed to study nuclear waste storage after he pulled the plug on Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the nation’s permanent repository.
Moniz has advocated that the U.S. develop a national energy strategy to drive investment.
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