Shared from the 12/20/2020 Star Tribune eEdition
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Gina McCarthy

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Deb Haaland

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Ali Zaidi

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Jennifer Granholm

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Brenda Mallory

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Michael Regan

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden introduced key members of his climate change team Saturday, as he prepares to become the nation’s leader when the world’s top scientists say governments must rapidly reduce planet-warming emissions to avoid global catastrophe.

Biden, speaking at an event in Wilmington, Del., said the climate team will be “ready on Day One, which is essential because we literally have no time to waste.”

His top lieutenants will include Gina McCarthy, former President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator whom Biden has tapped to head a new White House Office of Climate Policy. Her deputy will be Ali Zaidi, who currently serves as the deputy secretary for energy and environment for New York state.

The group includes progressives like Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico, Biden’s choice to lead the Department of the Interior and a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, and establishment figures like Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan, whom Biden tapped to be Energy secretary. Michael Regan, North Carolina’s top environmental regulator, was named to lead the EPA, and Brenda Mallory, a longtime environmental attorney, will chair the Council on Environmental Quality. And last month Biden named former Secretary of State John Kerry as an international presidential envoy on climate change.

“Folks, we’re in a crisis,” Biden said Saturday. “Just like we need to be a unified nation to respond to COVID-19, we need a unified national response to climate change.”

Citing the costs and loss of life from wildfires that raged across the West this year, Biden vowed to restore the regulations that President Donald Trump rolled back and said, “We will set new ambitious standards that our workers are ready to meet today.”

When Biden takes office in January he will inherit a government still struggling to contain the coronavirus pandemic and a shattered U.S. economy that has suffered millions of job losses. He also faces a monumental rebuilding effort after four years in which the Trump administration reversed more than 100 environmental regulations, mocked climate science and championed the production of the fossil fuels chiefly responsible for warming the planet.

On Saturday, Biden said he intends to make tackling climate change a core part of his coronavirus recovery action, calling for example for the development of more electric vehicle charging stations in any new relief or infrastructure bill. He said he has chosen a team that prioritizes making clean-energy jobs and environmental protection the cornerstone of his economic plans.

Climate policy is expected to play a critical role in the Biden administration, the president-elect said. He also highlighted the role of Granholm, who is credited with getting Michigan’s first renewable energy portfolio standard through a divided legislature, and working with the auto industry to develop electric vehicles.

The team includes a number of historic firsts.

Haaland, Biden’s choice to lead Interior, would be the first Native American cabinet secretary in history and would helm an agency responsible for managing the United States’ relationship with hundreds of recognized tribes.

The Interior department manages the nation’s vast natural resources as well as millions of acres of federal lands that include national parks and wildlife refuges. The agency also oversees the listing of endangered and threatened species. Haaland opposed several Trump administration policies related to federal lands, including his efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas drilling.

Regan, who leads North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, would be the first Black man to lead the EPA.

Brenda Mallory, a longtime environmental lawyer who spent more than 15 years at the EPA, would be the first Black woman to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

All four positions must be confirmed by the Senate.

So far, none of Biden’s selections has met with Republican resistance, although some groups that oppose action on climate change have called Haaland a “radical” on energy issues. And North Carolina’s Republican senators did not respond when asked if they intend to support Regan’s nomination.

Daniel Keylin, a spokesman for Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said in a statement that the senator “expects the EPA to balance the promotion of clean energy with the unique needs of America’s farmers and small businesses, and not return to the Obama administration’s crushing regulation-first approach.”

Next week a group of public health and environmental groups are launching a coalition they have called “Confirm Climate” to push lawmakers to support the president-elect’s climate change nominees.

Details about how Biden intends to coordinate the team around climate change remain unclear.

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