WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has named Ernest Moniz to head up the U.S. Department of Energy and Gina McCarthy to head up the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Moniz, who replaces Steven Chu as Secretary of Energy, is a physics and engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. McCarthy, who officially replaces former administrator Lisa Jackson, is an assistant administrator for air pollution at the EPA.
Nobel Prize-winning physicist Chu announced Feb. 1 that he would leave his post to return to academia. McCarthy succeeds Jackson, who left the agency on Feb. 14, taking over from deputy administrator Bob Perciasepe, who has been acting administrator.
"Ernie already knows his way around the Department of Energy," the President said in announcing the appointments. "He is a physicist by training, but he also served as Under Secretary of Energy under President Clinton. Since then, he's directed MIT's Energy Initiative, which brings together prominent thinkers and energy companies to develop the technologies that can lead us to more energy independence and also to new jobs. Most importantly, Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our economy while still taking care of our air, our water and our climate. And so I could not be more pleased to have Ernie join us."
Concerning McCarthy, he said, "Gina is from Boston. And one of her proudest moments was yelling 'Play ball!' at Fenway Park before a Red Sox game. But Gina has got plenty more to be proud of. As a top environmental official in Massachusetts and Connecticut, she helped design programs to expand energy efficiency and promote renewable energy. As assistant EPA administrator, Gina has focused on practical, cost-effective ways to keep our air clean and our economy growing. She's earned a reputation as a straight shooter. She welcomes different points of views. I'm confident that she's going to do an outstanding job leading the EPA."
He added, "So these two over here, they're going to be making sure that we're investing in American energy, that we're doing everything that we can to combat the threat of climate change, that we're going to be creating jobs and economic opportunity in the first place. They are going to be a great team. And these are some of my top priorities going forward."
Both have a political touch that analysts say will be necessary to counter longstanding criticisms from congressional Republicans and some industry lobbyists, said a Bloomberg report.
The two nominees would round out Obama's second-term energy and environment team as his administrations seeks to combat what is sees as the risks associated with climate change and weighs regulation of hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique behind increasing domestic oil and natural gas production.
Obama last month nominated Sally Jewell, CEO at outdoor retailer Recreation Equipment Inc. (REI), as Secretary of the Interior, a position that oversees energy development on federal land. McCarthy currently leads the EPA's Office of Air & Radiation, which during Obama's first term issued broad regulations to cut pollution from coal-fired power plants and automobiles.
"Gina's a true-blue environmentalist," Jeffrey Holmstead, a Bracewell & Giuliani LLP lobbyist who represents energy companies, told the news agency. "But I have to say she is at least willing to sit down and listen and understand the issues people have with EPA's regulations."
Environmentalists have praised her efforts, saying the U.S. rules would cut mercury, sulfur dioxide and other toxic emissions now responsible for causing asthma, heart attacks and premature death.
They have come under fire from Republicans in Congress, who contend the new regulations would put a drag on the economy without offering significant health benefits. That criticism probably will be renewed in McCarthy's confirmation hearings, said the report.
McCarthy, a Boston native, worked for Republicans before joining the Obama administration, including for Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as a top state environmental official. She left to head up the Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection from 2004 to 2009, where she worked with Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell.