Biden to Pick Jennifer Granholm, Gina McCarthy for Energy, Climate Roles



Joe Biden

is planning to tap former Obama administration Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy as national climate adviser and former Michigan Gov.

Jennifer Granholm

as Energy secretary, according to people familiar with the matter.

In Ms. McCarthy’s role, she will lead a newly formed White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy. Ali Zaidi, New York’s deputy secretary for energy and environment, will serve as Ms. McCarthy’s deputy, people familiar with the matter said.

Ms. McCarthy, who declined to comment, will work closely with former Secretary of State

John Kerry,

Mr. Biden’s special envoy for climate change. Her position doesn’t require Senate confirmation.

Mr. Biden’s top advisers also have expressed increased interest in picking

Rep. Deb Haaland

(D., N.M.) to lead the Interior Department. But House Democrats have pushed back, telling transition officials that they can’t afford to lose another lawmaker to the administration because of the party’s slim majority, people familiar with the discussions said.

Gina McCarthy was the Environmental Protection Agency administrator under President Obama.


Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

The president-elect is expected to formally announce key energy and environment positions this weekend, but one person familiar with the internal deliberations said Mr. Biden was still deliberating on his EPA administrator.

Ms. Granholm, who endorsed Mr. Biden for president in March, served as Michigan’s Democratic governor from 2003 to 2011 and as the state’s attorney general for the preceding four years. One of her signature policies as governor was a mandate for the state to increase the share of its energy derived from renewable sources like solar and wind.

If confirmed as energy secretary, Ms. Granholm would oversee U.S. scientific research and the country’s nuclear arsenal, and could help incentivize the development of low-carbon energy sources through the distribution of federal loans. She would also likely work closely with other senior officials, including the incoming head of the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House climate coordinator, to pursue Mr. Biden’s campaign pledge to achieve net-zero emissions in the U.S. by 2050.

Energy and Climate Policy

Ms. Granholm didn’t respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Mr. Biden’s transition team declined to comment.

As governor, Ms. Granholm pushed a renewable portfolio standard requiring 10% of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2015, a percentage that was later increased. During her tenure, she also worked closely with the Obama administration to help the auto industry, which faced collapse following the economic downturn. She has credited Mr. Biden with playing a key role in bolstering

General Motors Co.

and Chrysler during that period.

Ms. Granholm and Mr. Biden have a close relationship dating back years. She helped Mr. Biden prepare for his vice presidential debate during the 2008 campaign.

Other candidates Mr. Biden has considered for the energy secretary job included

Arun Majumdar,

a Stanford University professor and former vice president for energy at

Alphabet Inc.’s

Google, and former Deputy Energy Secretary

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall.

Mr. Majumdar could be nominated for another senior role at the Energy Department, possibly deputy secretary, some of the people familiar with the matter said. During the Obama administration, he became the first leader of the department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, or ARPA-E, working there from 2009 to 2012. The agency funds early-stage innovation projects, modeled on the research arm of the Defense Department that is known as a catalyst for breakthroughs.

In the biggest climate commitment made by any nation, China pledged to go carbon neutral by 2060. While it will be challenging for Beijing to achieve its goal, China’s plan to become a green superpower will have ripple effects around the world. Illustration: Crystal Tai

Mr. Biden has promised to place a new emphasis on this kind of work in government, including creating a new agency called “ARPA-C,” to address climate change. Mr. Biden has called climate change an urgent crisis and proposed the most aggressive climate agenda of any major presidential candidate, analysts say, likely making the Energy Department central to some of his biggest ambitions.

He has pledged to spend $2 trillion to help the country eliminate the greenhouse-gas emissions that warm the planet and to grow the domestic workforce. Mr. Biden wants that money to help spur progress and innovation from U.S. scientists and businesses on the electric power grid, utility-scale batteries, electrified transportation, carbon capture technology and advanced nuclear power—all efforts that get support from the Energy Department.

It would be a sharp contrast with the Trump administration, which de-emphasized the department’s role at promoting the growth of cleaner power in the U.S. Mr. Trump has questioned the science of climate change and worked to promote fossil-fuel consumption to boost the U.S. oil and coal industries. His Energy Department’s major initiatives included an attempted bailout for coal-fired power, support for boosting U.S. natural-gas exports and negotiations with other major oil producers.

Biden’s Cabinet Picks

Secretaries and administrators of government departments and other top roles

*Not announced yet.


Source: The Biden Transition team

Ms. McCarthy is the latest Obama-era veteran to be named to a top post, and she brings considerable clout to the White House. As a leader at the EPA during the Obama administration, she helped create and implement the country’s first major regulations on the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause climate change.

In her new White House role, she will oversee climate action across the government. Mr. Biden’s climate advisers have pushed the president-elect to address climate change through all the executive agencies—beyond EPA and other energy regulators. Ms. McCarthy will coordinate that work in areas that might include financial regulation, transportation funding and other infrastructure policy, according to a person with knowledge of the transition team’s planning.

Ms. McCarthy ran the EPA’s office that dealt with air pollution starting in 2009 and took over as EPA administrator during Mr. Obama’s second term.

She has a long history in environmental policy. Before joining the EPA, Ms. McCarthy served as the top environmental watchdog under two former Republican governors—Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 2003 and, later, Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell.

Earlier this year, she took over leadership of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the country’s preeminent environmental groups and the legal engineers behind several lawsuits fighting Trump administration efforts to ease environmental and climate regulations.

Write to Andrew Restuccia at [email protected] and Timothy Puko at [email protected]

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