Environmental groups are pushing the administration to do more to crack down on fracking, while industry groups and Republican lawmakers say federal rules are unnecessary, since states already regulate the drilling practice.
The natural gas boom "puts the administration in an interesting position. They can be aggressive and look at natural gas for the possibilities it brings, or they can bow to the environmental community, which is not interested in more natural gas drilling," said Frank Maisano, a Washington spokesman for a range of energy producers from coal to wind.
The Environmental Protection Agency also is expected to forge ahead with the first limits on carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. The administration has imposed rules on new plants but is expected to move forward on rules for existing plants, despite protests from industry and Republicans that new rules will raise electricity prices and kill off coal, the dominant U.S. energy source.
Older coal-fired power plants have been shutting down across the country, thanks to low natural gas prices and weaker demand for electricity.
Environmental groups also hope Obama will use his executive authority to protect more wild places, through creation of national monuments and other steps. The last Congress was the first since the 1960s not to designate a new wilderness area.
"We're hoping he can leave a legacy for conservation of public lands and have a real vision for it," said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said Obama's second term will be pivotal in the fight against climate change, which he called the "singular issue of our time for anyone who cares about clean air, clean water and a safe future for our families."
Brune urged Obama to take "swift, decisive action to prevent more erratic weather, superstorms and wildfires."
Top contenders to replace Salazar include former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes and John Berry, head of the Office of Personnel Management and a former director of the National Zoo. A host of green groups are backing Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva.
Gregoire also is under consideration for the EPA slot, along with Jackson's deputy, Bob Perciasepe, and the head of the agency's air and radiation office, Gina McCarthy.
University of Maryland Prof. Donald Boesch, who served on Obama's 2010 oil spill commission, is a leading candidate to replace Lubchenco at NOAA.
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