Carol Browner is back! The former Environmental Protection Agency chief and Maryland resident has been tapped by President-elect Barack Obama to be his climate "czar." She's pictured above, third from left, in the Associated Press photo of Obama's press conference in Chicago.
Head of EPA from 1993 to 2001, Browner has the distinction of being the longest serving administrator in the agency's at-times turbulent history. (Remember Anne Gorsuch Burford and Rita Lavelle?) Browner's also close to former Vice President Al Gore, the Nobel-winning advocate for urgent action on climate change. She worked as an aide to Gore when he represented Tennessee in the Senate.
Since leaving government, Browner - a resident of Takoma Park - has been a principal of the Albright Group, a Washington consulting outfit formed by former Clinton Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Browner headed up Obama's energy and environment transition team. She also leads the board of the National Audubon Society.
It's not clear just how the White House council on energy and climate that she'll head will work with the long-established Council on Environmental Quality. She'll also have to work with a high- powered Energy Secretary - Nobel-winning physicist Steven Chu (at right in photo), who now runs the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. Chu's apparently an outspoken advocate for energy conservation and renewables, having called coal is "worst nightmare," according to the Wall Street Journal's Environmental Capital blog. So she should have an ally there.
Many wasted no time in praising her selection, though. Environmental groups inside and outside the DC Beltway, issued laudatory statments. So did the outgoing CEO of Wal-Mart, the mega-retailer that has charted a greener path in recent years.
Browner had a reputation while at EPA of forging compromises with the industries her agency was supposed to regulate, but there still were plenty of legal and political battles, particularly over controlling air pollution. Conservatives and some other business leaders may not be as thrilled by her return to government.
She also brings baggage of another sort - her husband, former New York congressman Tom Downey, is a lobbyist whose firm has clients with energy interests. Obama has laid down a hard line against lobbyist ties in his administration; a transition spokesperson was quoted in the New York Times saying that appointees will have to recuse themselves from issues involving spouses, and spouses will be barred from lobbying relevant agencies.
Rounding out Obama's green team, he announced Lisa Jackson, (next to Obama in photo) former New Jersey environmental regulator, as his choice to run EPA. Jackson, who would be the first African-American to head the agency, is chief of staff to New Jersey Gov. John Corzine. But the Princeton educated chemical engineer has a resume that includes stints at EPA and in New Jersey's environmental agency before being tapped to run it two years ago. She's worked there to reduce the state's greenhouse gases.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation issued a statement shortly after her selection was announced, with CBF President Will Baker quoted saying that her extensive state and federal experience "should position her well for cleaning up the nation's pollution problems, and the Chesapeake Bay." CBF has threatened to sue EPA for not pushing the bay cleanup more aggressively.
Some environmentalists in New Jersey are not that thrilled with Jackson, either. A Pro Publica story story jointly published by Politico outlines how critics thought she had been "too close to industry, withheld information from the public—and fallen well short of the pledge she made when taking office in February 2006 to fix the state's beleaguered toxic waste program." Others, though, said she was overruled by the governor on some of the issues for which she's now being faulted, according to this Associated Press story in Forbes.com