“Captain of the Green Team” is how long-time energy and environmental reporter Margaret Kriz of National Journal headlines her Q&A with Obama administration climate chief Carol Browner, who in eight years of the Clinton administration established herself as the longest-serving administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
In a page of not especially newsy excerpts of Browner’s written responses to Kriz’ questions, Browner talks of her responsibilities in coordinating the administration’s climate change initiatives as “an all-hands-on-deck endeavor” and sloughs-off concerns about its being the proverbial herding of cats. She also doesn’t much abide concerns that she might find herself dictating EPA and other agencies’ rule-makings. “There is a difference between being an assistant to the President and having a statutory responsibility as the secretary of Energy or the administrator of EPA,” Browner said. “You have to coordinate across all of these departments and agencies and work closely with the experts. My role is to bring the various players together to reach consensus and to work with the President and formulate policy.”
Kriz’s five-page “Power Player” feature on Browner, available online only to National Journal subscribers (pricey), plays fair with the strengths and limitations Browner is seen bringing to her new responsibilities. Kriz points to her having savaged the Bush administration EPA and calling his administration “the worst environmental administration ever.” Harsh? Perhaps, but more than a few independent observers might largely agree with that broad-brush condemnation.
Kriz reports too that Obama’s handing of “a huge portfolio” to Browner “clearly touched a nerve” with come Capitol Hill Republicans, conservatives, and industry officials. “Critics accused her of ignoring the costs involved,” Kriz wrote, quoting a Manhattan Institute energy and environmental official as calling her “very polarizing … a true believer, activist, and environmentalist.”
Others are more generous, and Kriz reports that Browner from the start of the new Obama administration appeared to have a seat at the table during key domestic policy and economic briefings. At the same time, Kris reported that Browner might well expect some rough going in dealing with some top Obama administration economic heavyweights, such as Secretary Tim Geithner at Treasury; Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council; Peter Orszag, direcor of OMB; James Jones as National Security Officer; Cass Sunstein at OMB’s key Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
In any event, Kriz’s as-usual insightful reporting nails it when she reports that Browner has “a record of standing her ground on environmental issues,” that she’s determined and knows her way around Washington, and that she is, in the words of an unidentified business lobbyist, “the epitome of how to work in this city.”
There’s little doubt that from her privileged perch right within the White House complex, Browner will be a climate change force to reckon with in Washington, for interests both for and against the administration’s policy positions.