* McCarthy to become face of climate change push
* Moniz described as consensus builder
* Budget director pick has philanthropy background
By Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, March 4 President Barack Obama
announced his nominees to lead a new U.S. push to tackle climate
change on Monday, choosing an air quality expert to run the
Environmental Protection Agency and a nuclear physicist to head
the Department of Energy.
In a widely expected move, Obama selected agency veteran
Gina McCarthy to replace Lisa Jackson as EPA administrator and
scientist Ernest Moniz from the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology to take over for Steven Chu as Energy secretary.
Obama also announced his choice to lead the White House
budget office - Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Walmart
Foundation, a charitable group with ties to giant retailer
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
McCarthy and Moniz Round out the team Obama hopes will carry
out his second term energy agenda. They join Sally Jewell,
nominated last month to run the Interior Department.
The trio will be at the forefront of divisive issues
surrounding the extent of U.S. natural gas exports and a
possible move into crude oil exports, hydraulic fracturing and
The president, whose effort to establish a cap-and-trade
system for carbon emissions failed in his first term,
prominently raised the issue of global warming in his Inaugural
and State of the Union addresses earlier this year.
He urged Congress to embrace a market-based mechanism to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions or face executive action from
his administration to achieve the same goal.
McCarthy, currently the assistant EPA administrator for the
EPA Office of Air and Radiation, has worked for Democrats and
Republicans in the past, including Obama's 2012 presidential
opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
"Gina has focused on practical, cost-effective ways to keep
our air clean and our economy growing," Obama said at the White
House, ribbing McCarthy for her Boston accent.
"She's earned a reputation as a straight shooter. She
welcomes different points of views," he said.
Environmentalists and congressional Democrats largely
welcomed her nomination, but she is likely to face tough
grilling from Republicans, who have accused her of promoting
policies that cost jobs.
Moniz, meanwhile, would become the go-to person for Obama's
goal of reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil and establishing
America as a leader in clean energy technology.
A former undersecretary of energy during the Clinton
administration, Moniz is currently director of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology's Energy Initiative, a research group
that gets funding from industry heavyweights including BP
, Chevron, and Saudi Aramco for academic work on
projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gases.
"Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our
economy while still taking care of our air, our water and our
climate," Obama said.
Moniz's selection was greeted with less enthusiasm from the
"Ernest Moniz ... has a history of supporting dirty and
dangerous energy sources like gas and nuclear power with
polluting partners including BP, Shell, Chevron and Saudi
Aramco," said clean energy advocate Courtney Abrams of
"We are concerned about the Department of Energy's
priorities given this track record and hope Moniz will focus on
clean, renewable ways to get our energy that don't put our
families and our environment in harm's way."
NATURAL GAS, NUCLEAR
Elgie Holstein, chief of staff at the Energy Department when
Moniz was hired during the Clinton administration, dismissed
complaints that Moniz is too supportive of natural gas.
"I think the view that he is some sort of fracking fiend is
entirely misplaced. He has a very balanced view of that," said
Holstein, who is now with the Environmental Defense Fund.
One of the first decisions facing Moniz will face at the
helm of the Energy Department is whether to allow exports of
natural gas to more than the current list of countries.
A 2011 MIT study on the future of natural gas, chaired by
Moniz, said the United States should not "erect barriers to
natural gas imports or exports."
Many manufacturers and some lawmakers are concerned more
exports will mean higher natural gas prices for consumers and
companies. Moniz is likely to be questioned about the issue
during his Senate confirmation hearing.
Energy analysts cautioned against placing too much weight on
Moniz' involvement in the study advocating against restrictions
"Moniz may contribute, but we don't think he alone will
decisively shift top-level debate within the White House policy
ranks," Kevin Book of ClearView Energy Partners said in a
research note regarding gas exports.
Moniz may be able to make a bigger stamp on nuclear power.
His background as a nuclear physicist and work as a member of
the administration's commission on nuclear waste has sparked
some hopes that he may be able to bolster support for nuclear
power at the department.
"The real question mark is the nuclear side because of his
expertise, but I think it's a real opportunity," said Bruce
Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern
Methodist University in Texas.
The choice of Burwell to become director of the White House
budget office had also been widely expected.
All three nominations require confirmation by the Senate.
Obama appears to have delayed some Cabinet appointments,
whose names were well known for weeks, until after the March 1
deadline for massive spending cuts known as "sequestration."
Obama and congressional leaders failed to reach an agreement
to delay those cuts on Friday, threatening other policy
priorities in the president's second term agenda.
Burwell will be instrumental in steering the budget process
that will encapsulate Obama's stated goal of reducing the U.S.
deficit while investing in areas such as education and clean
energy technology that are necessary for U.S. competitiveness.
Raised in West Virginia and educated at Harvard and Oxford,
Burwell, 47, returns to an agency where she was once deputy
director - one of a number of roles she had in the Clinton
administration, including a stint as chief of staff to Treasury
Secretary Robert Rubin.