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THE NATION

Obama to name Energy secretary

Nobel physicist Steven Chu is to fill the post. An energy coordinator and a new EPA chief have also been chosen.

December 11, 2008|Jim Tankersley | Tankersley is a writer in our Washington bureau.

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama will tap Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu as his Energy secretary and former New Jersey environmental protection commissioner Lisa Jackson as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a senior Democrat said Wednesday.

In addition, Carol Browner, a former EPA administrator, will serve as a high-level coordinator on energy issues, reporting to the president.

The three incoming officials will help form the backbone of a team responsible for carrying out what Obama has repeatedly indicated will be an ambitious environmental agenda. They will be joined by Nancy Sutley, the Los Angeles deputy mayor whom Obama plans to name as the head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and a still-to-be-named Interior secretary.

The three newly designated officials bring experience working on climate change. Chu is the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a government research lab in California that under his tenure has focused on alternative energy research and has pushed efforts to boost energy efficiency in buildings.

The son of Chinese immigrants, Chu won the Nobel Prize for "development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light."

Jackson worked for 16 years at the EPA before joining New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection, which she was chosen to run in 2006. She also served on the board of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade effort among Northeastern states.

After Obama won the presidential election last month, he chose Jackson to advise him on energy and natural resource issues during the transition period.

Browner headed the EPA under President Clinton from 1993 to 2001, making her the agency's longest-serving director. She is a principal at the Albright Group, an investment advisory firm that focuses on emerging markets, and is leading Obama's energy and environment transition team. She also sits on the boards of the National Audubon Society and the Alliance for Climate Protection, among other environmental groups.

Environmentalists praised Obama's choices and said they underscored his commitment to fast action on renewable fuel development and carbon emissions reduction.

"These are . . . wins for the environment," said Frances Beinecke, president of the National Resources Defense Council. She said the creation of Browner's position "clearly demonstrates that leadership is going to come from the White House" on alternative energy.

A leading oil industry group offered no criticism of the appointments.

"We look forward to working with all the Obama appointees to come up with a comprehensive, fact-based and realistic energy policy that will benefit the American people," said Karen Matusic, a spokeswoman for the American Petroleum Institute.

The massive economic stimulus package Obama is preparing probably will include major investments in alternative energy development.

The president-elect met with former Vice President Al Gore this week to discuss climate change and declared afterward: "The time for denial is over. We all believe what the scientists have been telling us for years now, that this is a matter of urgency and national security, and it has to be dealt with in a serious way. That is what I intend my administration to do."

Today, Obama is expected to formally introduce former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) as his nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, a Democratic official confirmed. The president-elect will also introduce other members of his healthcare team at a Chicago news conference.

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jtankersley@tribune.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Steven Chu

Age: 60. Born Feb. 28, 1948, in St. Louis.

Experience: Professor of physics and molecular and cell biology, UC Berkeley; director, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 2004-present; chair, physics department, Stanford University, 1990-1993 and 1999-2001; head, quantum electronics research department, AT&T Bell Laboratories, Holmdel, N.J., 1983-1987; technical staff, Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, N.J., 1978-1983.

Education: Bachelor's degrees in physics and math, University of Rochester; doctorate in physics, UC Berkeley, 1976.

Family: Wife, Jean; two sons.

Quote: "I told my boss . . . 'Guess what? I just trapped an atom.' He said, 'Great. What are you going to do with it?' I said, 'I don't know, but it's great!' " That accomplishment, and years more of work, won Chu a share of the Nobel Prize for physics in 1997.

Source: Associated Press

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