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President Barack Obama names choices for energy, environmental posts

President Barack Obama has chosen to head the Energy Department a physicist whose views on hydraulic fracturing have been criticized by some environmental groups.
by Chris Casteel Published: March 5, 2013

— 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.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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