Former Google Executive Eyed as Biden Nears Climate Team Picks

Source: By Jennifer A Dlouhy, Bloomberg • Posted: Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Arun Majumdar

Arun Majumdar. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

President-elect Joe Biden is nearing decisions on the team of officials who will chart his environmental and energy policy, as transition advisers home in on government veterans who can move aggressively to drive his clean-energy agenda.

The candidates include former EPA chief Gina McCarthy and onetime Googleexecutive Arun Majumdar as well as Senator Tom Udall and North Carolina environmental regulator Michael Regan, according to people familiar with the matter.

The final team, expected to be announced this week, would play a key role driving regulatory policy to help fulfill Biden’s campaign promises to decarbonize the electric grid by 2035, promote electric vehicles and restrict oil development on federal land.

Biden met this weekend with transition team officials who have been vetting candidates for roles in his cabinet. The personnel deliberations are intertwined — with the president-elect’s selection of an Interior Department nominee, for instance, factoring in to his final pick for the Environmental Protection Agency, according to several people familiar with the matter.

Majumdar has been vetted to be energy secretary and has emerged as the leading candidate for the post among Biden’s team of transition advisers, according to two people familiar with the matter. Majumdar led the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy under former President Barack Obama, a role that put him in charge of steering funding to experimental projects in search of the next energy breakthrough.

Key Speakers At The 2016 IHS CERAWeek Conference

Photographer: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg

Also under consideration to lead the $35 billion Energy Department is a former Biden aide, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, and Jennifer Granholm, who previously was governor of Michigan, a battleground state, according to people familiar with the matter. Sherwood-Randall previously served as deputy energy secretary under Obama.

Representatives of Majumdar and Granholm didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did spokespeople for the Biden-Harris transition. A representative for Sherwood-Randall declined to comment.

Climate Czar

In addition, Biden is considering tapping McCarthy, a former EPA administrator, to run a new White House office on climate change. McCarthy, who led the EPA for nearly four years under Obama, was the driving force behind his efforts to combat climate change through regulation, including his signature Clean Power Plan.

McCarthy, now president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, previously has signaled she was not eager to rejoin the EPA as administrator, but the White House role would give her a critical position driving environmental and climate policy across the executive branch — without some of the bureaucratic headaches that come with leading an agency.

“Gina’s been clear she’s dedicated to advancing NRDC’s work,” said Mark Drajem, a spokesman for the environmental group.

The White House climate czar would work across agencies to ensure a coordinated, whole-of-government approach to confronting the challenge and would collaborate with Biden’s new special presidential climate envoy, former Secretary of State John Kerry.

Some environmentalists have cheered the decision to create the position, saying it will elevate climate policy decisions in the White House. “This creates a fundamental shift in how the federal government coordinates on an issue that impacts every facet of our lives,” said David Doniger, senior strategic director of climate and clean energy at NRDC. “It prioritizes national climate solutions like never before.”

EPA

Michael Regan is now among the top contenders to be EPA administrator, according to three people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named. Regan spent nearly a decade working under two presidents at the agency and is now the secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality. Regan also has been considered for other top roles within EPA, including as an assistant administrator focused on air or water policy.

Separately, transition advisers have weighed EPA administrator or another role for Richard Revesz, a former dean of the New York University School of Lawwho has been a fierce critic of the Trump administration’s environmental policy moves, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Both potential picks would add to the diversity Biden has vowed to achieve for his cabinet. His early nominees for top jobs have drawn criticism for not featuring enough people of color. Regan is African American, and Revesz immigrated to the U.S. from Argentina.

Biden transition officials have also eyed National Wildlife Federation president and former Delaware regulator Collin O’Mara for the EPA post, as well as Mary Nichols, the longtime head of the California Air Resources Board.

Regan did not respond to an emailed request asking about his candidacy, and Revesz declined to comment.

Interior Pick

For Interior Department, the contenders include retiring Udall, Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico, and Michael Connor, who was the agency’s second-highest ranking official under Obama.

Tribal leaders and environmental justice advocates have encouraged Biden to tap a Native American to run the Interior Department, which includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Haaland is a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo and Connor is an enrolled member of the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. Yet Biden is also under pressure not to fill his cabinet with more Democrats from the House because of the risk that Republicans will pick up the seats in elections to fill the vacancies.

Biden is also nearing a decision on who would lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which coordinates policy decisions on the issue. Former CEQ general counsel Brenda Mallory is a chief candidate, according to one person familiar with the matter. Mallory, who served as the agency’s general counsel under Obama, has more recently been the director of regulatory policy for the Southern Environmental Law Center, a group that uses litigation to promote clean air, safe water and wildlife conservation.

Transition officials also have considered two environmental justice advocates — Cecilia Martinez and Mustafa Santiago Ali — for the role.