UPDATE – Obama names Colorado senator to lead Interior Department

President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., a former environmental lawyer, to be secretary of the Department of Interior, transition aides and Democratic sources said.

Salazar is expected to be a key part of Obama’s energy and environmental team, which already includes physicist Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate and advocate of alternative energy research, as the Democrat’s choice for secretary of the Department of Energy.

Obama formally announced Dec. 15 the selections of Chu and other nominees disclosed by aides the previous week. (HNN 12/12/08) Other members of the energy and environmental team include:
o Lisa Jackson, chief of staff for New Jersey’s governor, to head the Environmental Protection Agency;
o Carol Browner, former EPA chief, to lead a new council coordinating White House policy on energy, climate, and environmental issues;
o Nancy Sutley, Los Angeles deputy mayor for energy and environment, to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality; and
o Bill Richardson, New Mexico governor, secretary of the Department of Commerce, which includes NOAA Fisheries.

Ken Salazar, Interior Department

Aides said Obama would officially announce Salazar as his choice for the Interior Department later in the week.

Salazar is from the western United States, the home of most Interior secretaries. Of Hispanic descent, Salazar’s family helped settle what is now New Mexico in the 1500s. Born in Colorado, Salazar became a lawyer with expertise in water law. He was Colorado attorney general before winning a Senate seat in 2004.

The Department of the Interior leases public lands for oil and gas drilling. It also includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation, the second largest producer of hydropower in the U.S. and the largest wholesale water supplier, with 58 hydro plants in 17 western states.

Steven Chu, Energy Department

Chu shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics for developing methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. He has directed DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California since 1994. Chu was an early advocate for finding scientific solutions to climate change, and guided the laboratory on a new mission to become a world leader in alternative and renewable energy research.

Chu likely will focus on renewable and alternative energy sources and less on traditional fossil fuels, according to one analysis. Chu is expected to play a major role in implementing Obama’s plan to resuscitate the U.S. economy with millions of new �green energy� jobs to cut polluting emissions and an addiction to foreign oil.

Obama has said energy and environmental matters would be important to his administration and he wants to spend billions of dollars to promote alternative energy sources and create millions of green energy jobs. (HNN 11/24/08) During the presidential campaign, he included hydropower among renewables.

Lisa Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency

Jackson previously served as New Jersey’s environmental protection commissioner and became the governor’s chief of staff in December. Jackson’s career has included nearly two decades of work at the federal EPA.

Carol Browner, White House energy, climate coordinator

Browner, a principal at a global strategy firm, Albright Group LLC, and head of Obama’s advisory team on energy and the environment, is to work closely with Chu. During President Clinton’s administration, Browner became the longest-serving EPA administrator. She previously served as Florida’s environmental regulation secretary and was former Vice President Al Gore’s top environmental aide when he was in the Senate.

Nancy Sutley, Council on Environmental Quality

Sutley has a long history in the environmental community. Before becoming deputy mayor, she served on the California State Water Resources Control Board, which is responsible for protecting water quality and resources. The Council on Environmental Quality that Sutley is to head coordinates federal environmental efforts and works closely with agencies and other White House offices in development of environmental policies and initiatives.

Bill Richardson, Commerce Department

Richardson, a former United Nations ambassador and energy secretary under President Clinton, will be able to tap his own international connections for his new post. The Commerce secretary is seen as the voice of the U.S. business community in the White House. The department includes NOAA Fisheries, which is responsible for stewardship of marine resources and their habitat.

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