President-elect Joe Biden has selected former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, North Carolina environmental regulator Michael Regan and Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico to advance his climate policy and strengthen safeguards against pollution.
If confirmed, Granholm would be secretary of energy, Regan would become Environmental Protection Agency administrator and Haaland secretary of the Interior.
The team announced Thursday also includes Brenda Mallory as chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, Gina McCarthy as National Climate adviser and Ali Zaidi as Deputy National Climate adviser.
“This brilliant, tested, trailblazing team will be ready on day one to confront the existential threat of climate change with a unified national response rooted in science and equity,” Biden said in a statement released Thursday night. “They share my belief that we have no time to waste to confront the climate crisis, protect our air and drinking water, and deliver justice to communities that have long shouldered the burdens of environmental harms.alarm in the oil and gas industry.
When Granholm was governor of auto-manufacturing Michigan, she led a charge that secured a whopping $1.35 billion in federal funding for companies to make electric cars and batteries in her state.
If confirmed as energy secretary, Granholm would face the task of making good on Biden's campaign promise to help the United States compete with China on electric vehicles as part of a $2 trillion plan to fight climate change.
Biden has said China was set to dramatically outpace the United States in EV production. But the United States, he said after the Nov. 3 election, could "own" the market with the right green policies. He has promised to build 550,000 EV charging stations and create over 1 million jobs by investing in clean energy research.
Granholm, who was Michigan's governor from 2003 to 2011, worked with Biden on the 2009 bailout of automobile manufacturers General Motors and Chrysler, which included incentives for investments in car batteries.
The former governor will likely have a strong partner at the Transportation Department. For that agency, Biden has nominated Pete Buttigieg, whose climate plan when he was a candidate for president called for $6 billion in grants and loans for states and cities to partner with companies and unions to deploy millions of EVs.
Both Haaland and Regan would fill roles critical to advancing the president-elect’s environmental agenda. Under Biden, the EPA is expected to develop new regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, automobiles and oil wells, while reversing some of President Donald Trump’s decisions that undercut limits on pollution. Biden has also promised to halt new oil and gas permitting on federal lands and waters that are managed by the Interior Department.
Regan played a central role in shaping North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order to promote renewable energy, spur zero-emission vehicles and pare the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.
Several of the appointments are history-making. If confirmed, Haaland would be the first Native American in a cabinet post in U.S. history, Mallory would be the first African American to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Regan would be the first Black man to serve as EPA administrator.
“Haaland has been clear about her commitment to ending the exploitation of public lands by fossil fuel corporations,” said Mitch Jones, policy director of Food & Water Watch, an environmental group. Picking Haaland, he said, “is a bold move that signals that Biden is serious about pursuing a full ban on oil and gas leases on public lands.”
The oil and gas industry has already warned of lost jobs and revenue if Biden makes good on vows to block new drilling and fracking on federal lands. Haaland’s home state of New Mexico is near the epicenter of the clash -- with burgeoning oil production that once paid for a free-college program and now provides roughly 39 percent of the state’s budget.
Any move to curtail oil development could have a significant impact in New Mexico. Roughly 90 percent of all production in the state’s portion of the oil-rich Permian shale basin was on state and federal lands last year, according to the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association.
The Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico said Thursday it had “serious concerns about the selection of Congresswoman Haaland for the job of interior secretary.”
“Ms. Haaland has repeatedly demonstrated contempt towards our industry, especially regarding the need for a balanced approach to public land management,” the group said. “We urge congressional leaders to closely examine her anti-oil & gas record as they consider this selection.”
American Petroleum Institute President Mike Sommers said the group was prepared to work with Biden’s nominees to tackle climate change.
“We will also be watching closely to ensure that the incoming administration keeps President-elect Biden’s campaign promises to the energy workforce and protects the millions of jobs supported by our industry in states like New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and across the country,” Sommers said.
Haaland, 60, who is Laguna Pueblo, would be the first Native American to serve in any cabinet position in U.S. history. A Democrat, she was just elected to her second term in the House of Representatives.
Haaland has pledged support for a ban on the fracking technique that has helped propel U.S. oil and gas development to record levels. She’s also a supporter of the Green New Deal, a sweeping plan for a “10-year national mobilization” to shift the U.S. to zero-emission energy sources with trillions in spending on social programs.
Federal lands are a prime source of fossil fuels, as well as the greenhouse gas emissions that come from burning them. Federal lands and waters together accounted for 22 percent of total U.S. oil production and 12 percent of U.S. natural gas production last year according to the Energy Information Administration.
At the same time, the oil, gas and coal extracted on federal lands and waters are responsible for about 24 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, according to a 2018 report from the U.S. Geological Survey.
In the House, Haaland has advocated greater consultation with tribes, conservation of federal lands and federal-tribal collaboration to prevent violent crimes. She worked to block drilling near the sandstone mesas and ruins of northwest New Mexico’s Greater Chaco region.
Regan’s three-year tenure as secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has put him in the middle of major disputes about cleaning up pollution and building new energy infrastructure.
He’s had a mixed record vetting gas pipelines that would cut through the state, having blocked a water quality certification essential to a planned extension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline but previously providing that critical certification for the Atlantic Coast pipeline.
The Atlantic Coast pipeline, since abandoned by developers, would have carried gas from West Virginia to public utilities in Virginia and North Carolina.
“North Carolina’s clean energy future is not dependent on adding more natural gas infrastructure,” Regan said at the time. “We should invest in clean, renewable energy sources and the economic benefits of energy innovation.”
Reuters contributed to this report.