President-elect Joe Biden will nominate former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to head the Energy Department, his presidential transition team said Thursday night.
The Democrat also tapped and North Carolina’s top environmental regulator, Michael Regan, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Rep. Debra A. Haaland to lead the Interior Department. The selections were announced as part of the incoming Biden administration’s climate agenda. Biden made climate change a top issue in his campaign.
Granholm was the 47th governor of Michigan, serving two terms from 2003 to 2010, and the first woman in history to be the state’s chief executive. She made green jobs a top priority in her second term and championed them as a way out of the Great Recession.
The Biden team said that “Granholm’s leadership was instrumental in rescuing the U.S. auto industry, saving one million jobs, and preparing Detroit for a clean energy future.”
Current Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who served under Granholm in both the House and Senate, praised the pick.
“This is great news for our country and for the generations of Americans who will benefit from a clean energy advocate at the helm of the Department of Energy,” she said. “Governor Granholm has been a fierce advocate for clean energy for decades. She spent eight years as governor working to build a more sustainable state, and focused Michigan’s economic recovery from the Great Recession on clean energy, which helped push national markets towards renewable technologies. She’s well suited to ensure that our economic recovery from COVID-19 prioritizes clean energy.”
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Hills), who served as Granholm’s lottery director, also praised her record on the environment and auto industry.
“Governor Granholm is a tireless advocate for Michigan workers and families and the Great Lakes. As Governor, she recognized early on that investing in clean energy is an economic and job-creating opportunity that will boost Michigan manufacturing. This is particularly important as our auto industry continues to focus on electric vehicles as the future of mobility,” he said.
Along with Haaland, Granholm and Regan, the transition announced environmental law expert Brenda Mallory would chair the Council on Environmental Quality and former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy would be a national climate advisor, with longtime Biden advisor Ali Zaidi as McCarthy’s deputy. Zaidi immigrated from Pakistan and grew up outside Erie, Pa.
“This brilliant, tested, trailblazing team will be ready on day one to confront the existential threat of climate change with a unified national response rooted in science and equity,” Biden said in the release.
Regan, the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, served in the EPA under both Republican and Democratic presidents “and has a distinguished track record of bringing people together across the public, private, and non-profit sectors to advance environmental justice and seek solutions to environmental and climate challenges,” the Biden team said.
If confirmed by the Senate, Haaland would be the first Native American person to hold a Cabinet role.
The Interior Department manages about 500 million acres of the roughly 640 million acres under federal control. Through bureaus and offices including the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Fish and Wildlife Service, the department sets and enforces federal land use, environmental and tribal policies.
In a Twitter post Thursday, Haaland noted the significance of her selection.
“A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” she said. “Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.” Haaland is a member of the Laguna of Pueblo.
Other congressional Democrats and allied environmental groups voiced support for Haaland.
House Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) praised the choice Thursday for its historical significance and policy implications. Last month, Grijalva penned a letter signed by 52 other House Democrats across the party’s ideological spectrum that lobbied Biden to select Haaland.
“You’re taking history full circle,” Grijalva said in a call with reporters Thursday. “You’re taking an Interior Department that for years, its principal responsibility was the legacy of disenfranchisement of Native people in this country…. Now you have an Indigenous person with great capacity assuming the role of running” the department.