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A New Environmental Leadership Team Emerges

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This week in 1992, when Bill Clinton was the President-elect, environmentalists and the Clinton transition team were in the early stages of conversations about key appointees. And today, although not officially, the outlines of the Obama environmental team have already emerged.

One wonderful face is a familiar one: former EPA Administrator Carol Browner, who apparently will coordinate energy and climate within the White House, which is a major step forward and shows that the overall energy and climate portfolio will have strong leadership and attention from the top.

New Energy Secretary Steve Chu, from the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, will take on what I have always thought was the most miserable job a President had to offer. But if anyone can make the Department work as intended, instead of as a series of often bruising exercises in crisis management at the nuclear weapons lab, it might be Chu.

Lisa Jackson, the nominee for EPA Administrator, has developed very close, positive relationships in New Jersey with the Sierra Club, and she also brings a strong scientific background to an agency where for the past eight years science and knowledge have been systematically corrupted and disregarded.

And new White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley should be able to provide the crucial oversight and switchboard function that CEQ has always done at its best.

We're still waiting to see who takes the lead at Interior, Agriculture, and Transportation, but so far, so good.

And perhaps as a sign that the winds of change have reached Washington ahead of the inauguration, the Bush administration today dropped two of its proposed last minute environmental regulatory assaults. Two major sections of the Clean Air Act -- the New Source Review Rule that requires the cleanup of old factories and power plants when they are expanded and the rules protecting Parks and wild areas from nearby air pollution sources -- will remain intact instead of being legally gutted in the last month.

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