Obama set to announce his environmental dream team


Obama must have been watching a lot of Captain Planet lately. Much like the superhero, the president-elect knows that it’s going to take more than just himself to clean up the environment and curb carbon emissions. That’s why he recently announced his plans to name his energy and environment team—Planeteers if you will—to help him make good on all those campaign promises to stop global warming while bringing a green economy to the US. After all, it is only with their “powers combined” that Obama will become a president that can actually turn this whole global warming thing around.  


So who’s on this team of eco-villain-busting planeteers? Lisa Jackson, who is a former New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) commissioner, will be named as Obama’s new EPA administrator, according to the Huffington Post. Unfortunately, she’s a bit fiery, much like the fire-wielding character Wheeler on Captain Planet. According to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Jackson’s temper has even made her ill-favored among her employees. “DEP employees describe Ms. Jackson as employing a highly politicized approach to decision-making that resulted in suppression of scientific information, issuance of gag orders and threats against professional staff members who dared to voice concerns,” claims PEER. And that’s just a warm-up. 

Here are some more “concerns” (aka dirt) that PEER had about Jackson in its press release: 

  • Cases in which public health was endangered due to DEP malfeasance, including one case involving a day-care center in a former thermometer factory in which the DEP failed to warn parents or workers for months about mercury contamination
  • Rising levels of water pollution, contamination of drinking water supplies, and poisoning of wildlife with no cogent state response
  • The state hazardous waste clean-up program under Ms. Jackson was so mismanaged that the Bush EPA had to step in and assume control of several Superfund sites.

Yikes. For our sake let's hope that PEER's allegations are overblown. Or at the very least that Jackson does better a better job as EPA administrator.

Obama is also planning to name Steven Chu as energy secretary. Like Linka, the Planeteer whose element is wind, Chu has supported research into the natural elements. While serving as director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Chu emphasized research on biofuels and solar energy, and has strongly advocated for controlling greenhouse gas emissions. Oh right, and he landed a Nobel Prize in physics in 1997 for his work on supercooled atoms, according to a New York Times article. That’s a far cry from current energy secretary Samuel Bodman, whose credentials include being a financier and executive by trade. According to the Times, Dr. Chu will be taking on one of the most challenging jobs in government, in part by being responsible for the maintenance and development of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile and upgrading the US electrical power delivery system (which will hopefully employ some wind power). He will also play a central role in directing research and development of alternative energy sources.

Also set to be named to Obama’s team is Nancy Sutley as head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Like Ma-Ti, the Planeteer whose special powers involve telepathy, Sutley will need to communicate well to coordinate with federal environmental efforts and work closely with agencies and other White House offices in the development of environmental policies and initiatives. Sutley is currently the deputy mayor of Los Angeles for energy and environment. According to a Huffington Post article, Sutley was an EPA official during the Clinton administration, served on the California State Water Resources Control Board and was an energy adviser to former Gov. Gray Davis.

And finally, Carol Browner, who was the EPA chief under Bill Clinton, will need to invoke the leadership skills of earth-wielding Planeteer Kwame, as she is expected to be named Obama’s National Energy Advisor or “Energy Czar.” She’ll need to coordinate energy and environmental policy among a group of federal agencies and lead a new National Energy Council. According to a New York Times article, Browner will have “forceful support” in the new Congress. She’ll need it considering that she has to reconcile the differences between such agencies as the EPA and the Transportation, Energy, and Interior departments in order to tackle issues like climate change. 

Though only time will tell whether these nominees will live up to reputations of their Planeteer counterparts, at the very least Obama’s appointments signal his intentions to go in a new direction by taking pollution down to zero. And that’s change that we can all believe in. “Go Planet!”

By Jessica A. Knoblauch


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