Obama Names Three to Cabinet for EPA, Energy, Budget

President Barack Obama announced three cabinet-level nominations, choosing Sylvia Mathews Burwell of the Wal-Mart Foundation as director of the Office of Management and Budget, scientist Ernest Moniz as head of the Energy Department, and Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, where she’s been an assistant administrator.

“I can promise you that as soon as the Senate gives them the go-ahead, they’re going to hit the ground running and they’re going to help make America a stronger and more prosperous country,” Obama said at the White House today.

Burwell, 47, president of the Wal-Mart Foundation, was deputy OMB director during President Bill Clinton’s administration and also was chief of staff to then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Her tenure included the 1995 budget standoffs between the president and Congress that led to partial government shutdowns.

From 1990 to 1992, she was an associate at McKinsey & Co. She worked for Clinton’s presidential transition team in Little Rock after the 1992 election and later helped Rubin set up the National Economic Council in 1993.

Burwell was named executive vice president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, rising to chief operating officer on Aug. 1, 2002, according to a company press release.

In January 2012 she was named president of the Wal-Mart Foundation, which made $959 million in cash and in-kind contributions worldwide in 2011, according to its website.

She would be the second woman, after Alice Rivlin in the Clinton administration, to head the White House budget office.

MIT Professor

Moniz, 68, is a physics and engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. He served as Energy Department undersecretary from 1997 to 2001 after an earlier stint as science adviser to Clinton.

He now directs MIT’s Energy Initiative, which is supported by energy companies such as BP Plc, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Chevron Corp. 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 Advisers 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.

Romney Connection

McCarthy, 58, is a Boston native who worked for then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as an environmental adviser and later as head of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. She 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.

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.

Moniz and McCarthy 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.

All three of today’s nominations are subject to Senate confirmation. Moniz would replace Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, who announced Feb. 1 that he is returning to academia. McCarthy would follow Lisa Jackson, who left the EPA on Feb. 14. Burwell would succeed acting OMB director Jeffrey Zients, who took over when Jacob Lew, now Treasury secretary, became White House chief of staff in January 2012.

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