President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenDeVos urges Education Dept. staff to ‘resist’ when Biden takes office LGBTQ groups celebrate Buttigieg pick for Transportation secretary Biden administration needs bipartisan solutions for older Americans, lawmakers say MORE is zeroing in on nominees for two final posts as his climate team takes shape.
Biden is expected to pick Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyBiden taps former EPA head Gina McCarthy as domestic ‘climate czar’: reports OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Countries roll out 2030 Paris Accord goals amid US absence | Biden eyes new EPA picks as Nichols reportedly falls from favor | Kerry faces big job on climate, US credibility Biden eyes new EPA picks as Nichols falls from favor: report MORE to serve as the first-ever White House climate policy coordinator and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) to lead the Department of Energy.
But deliberations over who will lead the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have stalled amid concerns over top contenders for the roles.
The two departments would be expected to carry out the bulk of regulations needed to forward Biden’s climate plans, and the team has faced heavy lobbying both for and against his picks.
At Interior, Biden has faced escalating pressure to select Rep. Deb HaalandDebra HaalandOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden reportedly selects Granholm as energy secretary | Trump administration narrows protection of habitat for endangered species | Administration rolls back efficiency standards for showerheads, washers and dryers On The Money: Bipartisan group unveils two-part 8B COVID package | The push for stimulus checks | Progressives frustrated with representation in Biden Cabinet OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Countries roll out 2030 Paris Accord goals amid US absence | Biden eyes new EPA picks as Nichols reportedly falls from favor | Kerry faces big job on climate, US credibility MORE (D-N.M.), a progressive who would make history as the first Native American Cabinet member.
Sen. Tom UdallTom UdallProgressives frustrated with representation as Biden Cabinet takes shape Castro says ‘there’s still work to do’ on Biden Cabinet diversity OVERNIGHT ENERGY: McEachin signals interest in Biden administration environment role | Haaland, eyed for Interior, stresses need for Native American representation | Haaland backers ask Udall to step aside in bid for Interior post MORE (D-N.M.) is also under consideration, as is former Interior Deputy Secretary Michael Connor, who like Haaland would be the first Native American to lead the department.
At the EPA, new names have been circulating in the last week. Michael Regan, the head of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, and Richard Revesz, a professor and former dean at the New York University School of Law, are reportedly under consideration to lead the agency after opposition arose to front-runner Mary NicholsMary NicholsOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden reportedly selects Granholm as energy secretary | Trump administration narrows protection of habitat for endangered species | Administration rolls back efficiency standards for showerheads, washers and dryers The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Mastercard – US inoculations begin; state electors certify Biden; Barr is out OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Countries roll out 2030 Paris Accord goals amid US absence | Biden eyes new EPA picks as Nichols reportedly falls from favor | Kerry faces big job on climate, US credibility MORE.
Nichols, California’s top air regulator, was expected to face resistance from Senate Republicans, but a letter from a coalition of 70 environmental and social justice groups complaining she did not do enough to consider their voices when working to craft the state’s cap and trade program has reportedly diminished her prospects.
National Wildlife Foundation President Collin O’Mara and former EPA regional administrator Heather McTeer Toney are also being weighed for the job.
“Everyone’s waiting — that’s where we are today,” said Aaron Weiss, deputy director of Center for Western Priorities, a public lands watchdog group that monitors the Interior Department.
Selecting McCarthy, a former EPA administrator known for not shying away from political battles, could suggest Biden wants a heavy-hitter within the White House as filling the remaining roles gets complicated.
Biden has been facing mounting pressure to select a Native American to lead Interior — an agency critics say has often fallen short in its responsibilities to tribes.
But picking Haaland would cut House Democrat’s majority even slimmer. Tapping just two House Democrats has already left the party with its narrowest majority in modern history.
“That’s a question for Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Majority Leader [Steny] Hoyer. I don’t know what their thinking is in terms of how close is too close,” Weiss said.
A source close to Haaland said the congresswoman is still in consideration for the job and that conversations with the Biden transition team are ongoing.
If Haaland were selected, New Mexico law wouldn’t require her to vacate her seat until confirmed for a new position, at which point the state would have a maximum of 91 days to hold an election.
But regardless of any pressure Biden might be facing in the House, Weiss said he has good options.
“At Interior you can’t look at Tom Udall or Deb Haaland or Mike Connor and say any of these are going to be a bad choice at Interior.”
Progressives may find fault with Connor, who currently works at WilmerHale. Though his practice with the law firm primarily involves water law, WilmerHale offers legal services to oil and gas companies.
And at the EPA, the left-leaning groups’ letter may have sunk Nichols, often called the “Queen of Green” over her long career as a regulator both at the EPA and elsewhere.
In a virtual event Tuesday reflecting on Nichol’s career, she appeared to push back on the narrative that she hasn’t been responsive to environmental justice concerns, showing pictures of herself at the 1963 civil rights march and registering Black voters in Tennessee.
With additional names for the job beginning to circulate, it’s not clear how close the Biden team is to making a decision. But that’s not a concern for some.
“I think he will go with the best, most experienced and effective people he can find,” a former senior Interior Department official said, adding that picking McCarthy and former Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryBiden taps former EPA head Gina McCarthy as domestic ‘climate czar’: reports The climate candidate won — what can activists do now? OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Countries roll out 2030 Paris Accord goals amid US absence | Biden eyes new EPA picks as Nichols reportedly falls from favor | Kerry faces big job on climate, US credibility MORE to lead his climate efforts demonstrate that commitment.
“EPA will be critical for repairing the damage done by the Trump wrecking crew and implementing new measures to deal with climate. It is the agencies that will have to implement those policies. His Cabinet picks thus far reflect experience, expertise, and diversity — what he committed to do. President-elect Biden knows how Washington works and what it takes to get things done. He’s assembled a team of proven ‘doers’ while meeting his political commitments.”
Updated at 12:15 p.m.