WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama announced plans Monday to nominate Ernest Moniz as energy secretary, despite complaints from some environmental groups that he is a vocal proponent of hydraulic fracturing.
The president also tapped Gina McCarthy, a longtime regulator who once worked in the administration of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, to head the Environmental Protection Agency as he presses for action to reduce carbon pollution.
Obama made the selections for his second-term cabinet at a time when the oil and gas industry is wary that overregulation could stymie a renaissance in domestic energy production.
Moniz, a physicist who served at the Energy Department in the Clinton administration, has been director of the MIT Energy Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Obama said the initiative “brings together prominent thinkers and energy companies to develop the technologies that can lead us to more energy independence and also to new jobs.”
“Most importantly, Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our economy while still taking care of our air, our water and our climate,” Obama said.
Groups such as Americans Against Fracking and Food and Water Watch criticize the MIT initiative for taking its funding from large energy companies. And they say Moniz's comment that the environmental risks associated with shale energy development are “manageable” make him a “cheerleader” for hydraulic fracturing.
If he's confirmed as energy secretary, hydraulic fracturing might not be on his agenda, but the issue of exporting natural gas will be.
The issue has divided lawmakers and industries. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and others have encouraged the Energy Department to approve exports to more countries, a position supported by the American Petroleum Institute. But some domestic manufacturers enjoying the low cost of natural gas are concerned that more exports will drive the price higher.
Inhofe, a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee and frequent EPA critic, supported McCarthy four years ago when she was nominated to head the EPA's air and radiation office. He said Monday her nomination proves the president “wants to continue pursuing an aggressive climate agenda at EPA.”
Inhofe said McCarthy oversaw some of the EPA's most controversial recent rules. He said he hopes to find common ground with her.
“My priority is to ensure that EPA follows sound science and accurate cost-benefit analysis to ensure government's encroachment into entrepreneurship and American ingenuity is instructed by facts, and not political gamesmanship,” he said.
Larry Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation president and CEO, said McCarthy “has proven herself to be fair and pragmatic while determined to carry out her responsibilities under the law.”
My priority is to ensure that EPA follows sound science and accurate cost-benefit analysis to ensure government's encroachment into entrepreneurship and American ingenuity is instructed by facts, and not political gamesmanship.''
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa,