This week, President-elect Joe Biden announced the following energy-related nominees and appointees:
Michael Regan, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator
- Currently serves as North Carolina’s Secretary of Department of Environmental Quality
Jennifer Granholm, Energy Secretary
- Former two-term Governor of Michigan
Deb Haaland, Interior Secretary
- Currently serves as the Representative for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District
Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor
- Served as EPA Administrator under the Obama-Biden administration
Brenda Mallory, White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair
- Served as CEQ general counsel under the Obama-Biden administration
Pete Buttigieg, Transportation Secretary
- Former Mayor of South Bend, IN
Ali Zaidi, Deputy National Climate Advisor
- Former Office of Management and Budget and White House Domestic Policy Council official during the Obama-Biden administration
On Friday (Dec. 18), Biden announced additional members of his White House communications team. To view the list of new staff, click here
To view a full list of nominees, appointees, and White House staff, click here
Michael Regan, nominee for EPA Administrator, is currently North Carolina’s top environmental regulator. The EPA will be the most central agency to Biden’s climate change plans – which have called for eliminating carbon dioxide emissions from the power grid by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050. In North Carolina, Regan helped craft a clean energy plan aimed at reducing emissions from the state’s power sector, and also negotiated a multi-billion-dollar deal with Duke Energy to clean up coal ash. Regan’s nomination is seen as a nod to the progressive wing of the Democratic party, and he will likely work closely on environmental justice issues.
Jennifer Granholm, nominee for Energy Secretary, served as Governor of Michigan for two terms, and has extensive experience in working with the auto industry. In the past, Granholm worked with then Vice President Biden on the 2009 bailout of General Motors Co and Chrysler – which included incentives for investments in car batteries. She will likely lead DOE’s push to help encourage electric vehicle (EV) production as part of Biden’s $2 trillion plan to fight climate change. The Department of Energy (DOE) operates labs that have helped develop advanced technology used in renewables, fossil fuel production, and nuclear energy, and will play an important role in Biden’s plan to reduce carbon emissions. Granholm has positioned herself as a figure who can help the Biden administration’s transition to a clean energy economy.
Deb Haaland, nominee for Interior Secretary, currently serves as the House Representative for New Mexico’s 1st District. Haaland will likely play an important role in Biden’s goal to move the federal government away from fossil fuels and increase environmental protection on public lands. If confirmed, she would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history – Haaland is a member of New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo people. Haaland championed renewable energy legislation and spoke against fossil fuel infrastructure during her time on the House Natural Resources Committee. She has also supported policies that would put 30 percent of U.S. lands under federal protection by 2030. The Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats, two environmental groups at the heart of the “Green New Deal” resolution, have called her a “fierce ally of the movement.”
Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor, will lead the new White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy. Previously, McCarthy served as EPA Administrator in the Obama-Biden administration, and oversaw the development of various climate regulations. She has led the National Resources Defense Council since early 2020. McCarthy will likely focus on advancing climate action across the government, including at Transportation, Energy, and Interior. She will serve as the domestic counterpart to John Kerry, who has been selected as the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. If Republicans keep control of the Senate, McCarthy will have to rely on executive agency actions to enact many parts of the Biden-Harris climate agenda.
Brenda Mallory, White House CEQ Chair, is a veteran environmental lawyer and currently leads the Southern Environmental Law Center’s regulatory practice. Mallory was endorsed by both Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and environmental activists. CEQ has a wide scope to instruct federal agencies in how to evaluate the environmental impact of projects, policies, and land-use decisions; as well as oversees the National Environmental Policy Act. Previously, Mallory served as acting General Counsel and Principal Deputy Council at EPA.
Pete Buttigieg, nominee for Secretary of Transportation, is the former Mayor of South Bend, IN and was a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. If confirmed, Buttigieg will be responsible for 55,000 employees and an $87 billion budget. On the campaign trail, Buttigieg was the first candidate to put out an infrastructure plan – which was a detailed proposal that included a vehicle miles fee and increased road safety.
Friday (Dec. 18) evening, the House and Senate passed a two-day stopgap measure to keep the government open through the weekend.
Lawmakers are still working to finalize a $900 billion COVID-19 relief deal to attach to the FY 2021 $1.4 trillion government funding legislation. Various Members of Congress have expressed frustration in the lack of information around the COVID-19 relief talks, as well as what is included in the legislation being negotiated. Additionally, a push by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to curb the emergency lending authority of the Federal Reserve has caused contention within the chamber.
The new package reportedly includes a round of $600 direct payments, $325 billion in small business support, including $250 billion in Paycheck Protection Program funding, and $300 per week in supplemental federal unemployment insurance benefits for at least an additional 10 weeks.
Earlier this week, the bipartisan group of senators who released the framework for a $908 billion COVID-19 package last week agreed to split up the proposal. The House and Senate lawmakers introduced two bills on Monday (Dec. 14), one that includes unemployment insurance, small-business relief, education funding, vaccine distribution, and other key priorities, and a separate bill with the issues holding up the package: state and local government funding and business liability waivers.
President Trump has indicated he will veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This would be the first veto override of the Trump presidency.
By law, Trump would have to veto the bill by Dec. 23. A vote in the House and Senate will be determined by how soon Trump formally rejects the legislation. House leaders are discussing bringing members back the week of Dec. 28, but no plans will be finalized until the measure is vetoed. For the Senate, the most likely scenario will be to hold the vote on Jan. 3, 2021.