By TENNILLE TRACY and RYAN TRACY
The Wall Street Journal
WASHINGTON -- Energy-industry officials and environmental
groups are watching for change at the top in President Barack
Obama's second term, with Environmental Protection Agency
chief Lisa Jackson, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Energy
Secretary Steven Chu seen as possible candidates to step down.
Any new faces could have a big impact on some of the most
important issues affecting the US economy, including the rapid
growth of oil and gas production backed by new drilling
technologies and the decline of coal.
Mr. Salazar's spokesman said the secretary remains "focused
on the job." The White House declined to comment on who might
leave the Cabinet or when, and representatives of the EPA and
the Energy Department didn't return messages seeking
Washington lobbyists and Capitol Hill staff are already
circulating lists of possible candidates for the posts. The EPA
job is particularly critical, whether Ms. Jackson holds it,
because the agency must make decisions about regulating
greenhouse gases in the coming year that could effectively
block new coal-fired power plants.
Presidents typically shuffle their cabinets going into a
second term. The grueling workload and relatively low
government salaries often prompt some leaders to step
While there is no particular impetus for Ms. Jackson or
Messrs. Salazar and Chu to leave right away, all three have
shouldered considerable criticism from corporate executives,
industry lobbyists and Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Salazar, a former US senator from Colorado, was widely
criticized for issuing a temporary drilling ban after the 2010
Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Mr. Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, absorbed flak for
supporting loan guarantees for bankrupt solar-panel maker
Perhaps the most popular target for Republicans is Ms.
Jackson. A former New Jersey environmental official, Ms. Jackson
has been accused by Republicans of expanding her agency's
authority and tackling climate change despite disagreement on
the issue on Capitol Hill.
"Some people just get worn out," said Jeff Holmstead, a
former EPA official and a partner at Bracewell & Giuliani.
"There are a number of perks that come with the job, but it is
a lot of hard work."
Mr. Obama's allies in the environmental community were
pleased with the selections of Mr. Chu and Ms. Jackson after
his election in 2008. If they step down, the president's picks
for successors could be an indication of whether he wishes to
lean more in the direction of industry or environmental groups interested in
In a second term, "President Obama has an historic
opportunity to establish a legacy as the person who saved the
planet from climate change," said Daniel J. Weiss, director of
climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal
The timing of any future departures is unclear. The White
House is likely to consider is the pace at which other cabinet
members leave, careful not to allow a mass exodus within the
first months of a second term.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has already said he
plans to leave his post, although he says he will remain until
a successor is confirmed.
It could also be difficult for Mr. Obama to steer new
candidates through the Senate's confirmation process. Hearings
on a new EPA chief could evolve into a referendum on climate
change, a polarizing topic among members of Congress.
Meanwhile, some of the earliest departures within EPA or the
Interior and Energy Departments could come from second-tier
political appointees or staff.
Dow Jones Newswires