By TENNILLE TRACY, KEITH JOHNSON and RYAN TRACY
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Monday named his
picks to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and
the Energy Department, selecting a veteran regulator and a
noted academic to lead a pair of agencies responsible for
driving US energy policies.
Mr. Obama selected Gina McCarthy, the current head of the
EPA's clean-air office, to lead the environment agency. For the Energy
Department, Mr. Obama nominated Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist Ernest
Both Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Moniz emerged several weeks ago as
the top contenders for these posts, and both must be confirmed
by the Senate.
Mr. Obama said Monday at the White House that the pair would
lead efforts to do "everything we can" to combat climate
The nomination of Ms. McCarthy, a Boston native who served
under Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, reflects Mr. Obama's
stepped-up focus on climate change.
Ms. McCarthy has pushed through some of Mr. Obama's most
controversial environmental rules, including a set
of greenhouse gas standards that critics say go beyond the
scope of the EPA's authority. Her office is currently writing a
rule to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new power
The rule would effectively forestall the construction of coal-fired units
unless new technology becomes available.
The confirmation process could be challenging for Ms.
McCarthy. The EPA is a polarizing agency that often attracts
criticism from Republicans. Even before Ms. McCarthy's formal
nomination, some Republican lawmakers were expressing
Mr. Moniz, a nuclear physicist, served in the Energy
Department under President Bill Clinton. He is the director of
MIT's Energy Initiative and sits on Mr. Obama's council of
If confirmed, Mr. Moniz would play a role in deciding
whether to allow energy companies to export US natural gas. In
his current role, Mr. Moniz was the co-chairman of a 2011 study
that found "there are substantial economic benefits to a global
natural-gas market" and said "the US should not erect barriers
to natural gas imports or exports."
Mr. Moniz would also lead efforts to advance new nuclear
power plants, lower the cost of renewable energy and boost the
energy efficiency of US buildings and appliances -- all goals
he has promoted in the past.
He will have to defend those efforts before a Congress wary
of government spending and skeptical of energy subsidies after
the bankruptcies of some US-backed renewable energy firms
during Mr. Obama's first term.
Mr. Moniz will be prepared for those battles, said Phil
Sharp, a former congressman from Indiana who is president of the
think tank Resources for the Future and served with Mr. Moniz
on a presidential nuclear waste commission.
Mr. Moniz's previous government posts have acquainted him with
both Congress and the "far-flung operations" of the Department
of Energy, with its national network of research labs and
nuclear weapons sites, Mr. Sharp said.
Dow Jones Newswires