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President-Elect Obama Picks Green Team

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Now to Mr. Obama's nominees for key energy and environmental posts which signal his interest in promoting renewable energy and tackling climate change. NPR's Elizabeth Shogren has this story.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN: Mr. Obama's choices won't have to do a lot of homework before they get started. Carol Browner, Steven Chu, and Lisa Jackson are experts with many years of experience as government managers.

KATHLEEN MCGINTY: This is the team that can hit the ground running.

SHOGREN: Kathleen McGinty headed President Clinton's White House Council on Environmental Quality, and until recently ran Pennsylvania's environment agency.

MCGINTY: I think it is a team that will have the combined smarts on the substantive side of these issues, as well as the political acumen and strategy and ability to bring the right players to the table.

SHOGREN: After eight years of complaining about the Bush administration's failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, environmental activists were elated by the announcements.

EILEEN CLAUSSEN: Many of us who are interested in the climate issue are really heartened by this set of selections, because I think it really means that we're going to move forward.

SHOGREN: Eileen Claussen heads the Pew Center on Climate Change. She was particularly impressed by Mr. Obama's decision to nominate Steven Chu as energy secretary.

CLAUSSEN: I think it's absolutely terrific to put someone in at the Department of Energy who is both a scientist and really knowledgeable on energy efficiency and renewables.

SHOGREN: Chu is a green energy advocate who heads the Energy Department's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. In an interview with NPR earlier this year, Chu explained why the country has failed to address climate change.

STEVEN CHU: I don't think the American public understands the reasonably high probability some very bad things will happen. They fundamentally don't understand that, because if they really felt that, then they would do something about it.

SHOGREN: Industry representatives say they see the appointees as harbingers of change. They expect more regulation and stricter enforcement of environmental laws. Scott Segal is a lawyer and lobbyist for electricity companies that burn coal.

SCOTT SEGAL: We're expecting big shifts from where the current administration is to where the next administration will be.

SHOGREN: One of the president-elect's goals is to get Congress to adopt a program to slash emissions of greenhouse gases. Lisa Jackson, Mr. Obama's nominee to head the EPA, already helped push a program like that through the New Jersey Legislature. Several business representatives who worked with her during that process gave her high marks. David Brogan is a vice president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

DAVID BROGAN: It's a very difficult issue. It's a very complex issue. It affects businesses across the spectrum. And she was willing to listen to us, to work with us. She's a good administrator. She understands that you need to hear from all sides before making a final decision.

SHOGREN: Jackson has mixed reviews from environmental groups in New Jersey. Some say she hadn't done enough to clean up hazardous waste sites, but others say she has used her considerable political skills and persuasion to promote clean energy and win passage of climate policy. Jackson is a New Orleans native with an academic background in chemical engineering. Her resume includes 16 years working at the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Obama named one of that agency's former chiefs, Carol Browner, to a brand new job as the climate and energy czarina. The president-elect says Browner will coordinate federal, state, and local programs.

OBAMA: She brings the unmatched experience of being a successful and longest-serving administrator of the EPA. She will be indispensable in implementing an ambitious and complex energy policy.

SHOGREN: Browner has already started that work in the president-elect's transition team. Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Elizabeth Shogren is an NPR News Science Desk correspondent focused on covering environment and energy issues and news.