Lack of permanent chair no sign of diminished CEQ status — acting chief

Source: By Colin Sullivan, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, September 26, 2014

NEW YORK — The acting chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality isn’t sure if the “acting” part of his title will be removed anytime soon.Moreover, acting CEQ chief Michael Boots doesn’t think the question is all that important.”Nobody inside that building is concerned about whether it’s ‘acting’ or not,” said Boots, in reference to the White House, in a brief interview here.

Boots was then asked if his less-than-ironclad status might not indicate a diminished influence at CEQ over environmental policy within the Obama administration. The agency has been without a nominated and congressionally vested leader since the longtime former chief, Nancy Sutley, resigned in February.

“I don’t think it does,” Boots said.

His comments came after a lunchtime address at the Rising Seas Summit here, a conference put on by the Association of Climate Change Officers for the second year running.

During his speech, Boots plugged President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and said the White House is working hard, through interagency councils and task forces, to see it implemented.

CEQ has long been viewed as the most influential environmental policy advisory office within the White House, but there have been rumors afloat in Washington that John Podesta’s role as top counselor on climate and energy issues may have shifted the influence meter.

A long list of well-known candidates had been rumored as under consideration for the post, including former Democratic Govs. Bill Ritter of Colorado and Christine Gregoire of Washington, but no such nomination has materialized.

As the shop charged with coordinating environmental policy across the government, CEQ has a lot on its plate as the Obama administration tackles greenhouse gas rules, a decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline and other high-profile issues.