WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday rolled out an environmental team that he hopes will steer America toward greater action to curb climate change and protect the nation’s air and water.
“We literally have no time to waste,” Biden told reporters as introduced his choices.
Biden compared the climate threat to the calamity of the coronavirus pandemic and he pledged to take action.
“Folks, we’re in a crisis,” Biden said. “Just like we need a unified national response to COVID-19, we need a unified national response to climate change. We need to meet the moment with the urgency it demands as we would during any national emergency.”
The approach is a shift from Donald Trump’s presidency, which has been marked by efforts to boost oil and gas production while rolling back government efforts intended to safeguard the environment. The incoming Biden team will try to undo or block many of the current administration’s initiatives. There also will be an emphasis on looking out for the low-income, working class and minority communities hit hardest by fossil fuel pollution and climate change.
In his remarks, Biden stressed the diversity of an emerging team that he described as “brilliant, qualified, tested and barrier-busting.”
“Already there are more people of color in our Cabinet than any Cabinet ever,” said the former vice president, who has promised to assemble a group of department leaders who reflect the diversity of America.
If conformed by the Senate, New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland would be the first Native American to lead the Interior Department, which has wielded influence over the nation’s tribes for generations. Former two-term Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm is in line to be energy secretary.
North Carolina official Michael Regan would be the first African American man to run the Environmental Protection Agency. Regan, the state environmental head since 2017, has made a name for himself by pursuing cleanups of industrial toxins and helping the low-income and minority communities significantly affected by pollution.
Biden’s nominee to oversee the Council on Environmental Quality is Brenda Mallory. The office oversees environmental reviews for virtually all major infrastructure projects and advises the president on major environmental issues. If confirmed, she would be the first African American to hold the position since it was created more than half a century ago.
Two other members of the team introduced Saturday do not need Senate confirmation. They are Gina McCarthy, to serve as national climate adviser, and Ali Zaidi, to serve as her deputy. McCarthy was EPA administrator from 2013 to 2017 during President Barack Obama’s second term.
Associated Press staff writers Ellen Knickmeyer and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.