President-elect Joe Biden late on Thursday nominated U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico to head the Department of the Interior as part of a “tested, trailblazing team [that] will be ready on day one to confront the existential threat of climate change.”
Other women the president-elect nominated to fill key climate-related roles were Jennifer Granholm to run the Department of Energy; Gina McCarthy to be the first-ever national climate adviser heading a new White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy; and Brenda Mallory to chair the Council on Environmental Quality.
Biden also nominated Michael Regan to be Environmental Protection Agency administrator and he announced Ali Zaidi as McCarthy’s deputy.
Haaland, who was re-elected to a second House of Representatives term in November, was one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress. If confirmed, she would be the first Indigenous leader of the Interior Department, which oversees federal land and natural resources, as well as administering most programs related to more than 550 federally recognized tribes.
“A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior. I’m incredibly honored,” Haaland said in a statement, adding that she would be a “partner” to address the impacts of climate change and environmental injustice.
Haaland, 60, is a rising star in the Democratic Party’s progressive wing. She protested the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock in 2016 and her first congressional campaign in 2018 was centered on climate change and environmental justice. She backs the Green New Deal to address climate change and economic inequality that is to the left of positions taken by Biden, who has nonetheless called it a “crucial framework.”
The environmental and progressive groups that lobbied Biden’s team to appoint Haaland to the Interior Department lauded her selection. Her nomination showed Biden’s “strong commitment to environmental justice and bold climate action,” Climate Power 2020 Executive Director Lori Lodes said.
Granholm, 61, was nominated to head the Department of Energy. She was elected in 2002 to be Michigan’s first female governor and served two terms, during which she led the state through the Great Recession and worked closely with President Barack Obama’s administration on the 2009 bailout of the automotive industry. If confirmed by the Senate, she will be the second woman to lead the department, which is in charge of the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal but also oversees renewable energy technology and fossil fuel production.
Biden’s move to put Granholm, an advocate for clean energy development, at the helm of the Energy Department emphasizes the role it plays in making environmental policy, in addition to overseeing the country’s nuclear arsenal.
The president-elect worked closely with Granholm during the automotive bailout when he was vice president to Obama. That experience informed his decision, and Biden sees Granholm as a crisis-tested leader who is well-positioned to guide energy and environmental policy with an eye towards disparate impact on communities of color, according to a source familiar with his transition team’s thinking.
McCarthy, 66, will be the first-ever national climate adviser to lead a new White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy and the domestic counterpart to John Kerry, the former secretary of state whom Biden selected as his climate envoy, a position that will be a part of his National Security Council. McCarthy will not require Senate confirmation. She was the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator who developed the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.
McCarthy is currently the head of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental advocacy group. As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator in Obama’s administration, she oversaw efforts to cut greenhouse gases and mitigate air pollution. She also implemented the Clean Power Plan to set the country’s first-ever national standards for lowering power plants’ carbon emissions. At the NRDC, McCarthy has repeatedly sued the Trump administration over relaxing environmental regulations, including a concerted effort to undo many aspects of the Clean Power Plan.
EarthJustice, a nonprofit environmental law organization, said on Twitter that they were “thrilled” by McCarthy’s appointment because she would be a “powerful advocate for public health and bold climate action.”