Political Notebook

Obama to name energy, environment team picks

December 15, 2008
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President-elect Barack Obama, who has vowed to adopt an aggressive approach to global warming and the environment, will hold a news conference today to announce his choices to lead the effort.

He is expected to name Steven Chu, a Nobel physics laureate, as energy secretary and Carol Browner, a former Environmental Protection Agency chief, as the head of a new council that will coordinate White House policy on energy, climate, and environment, sources have said.

Obama is also expected to announce he has chosen Lisa Jackson, the chief of staff for New Jersey's governor, to run the EPA and Nancy Sutley, a deputy mayor of Los Angeles, as head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

News of who would comprise Obama's energy and environment team began trickling out last week and the choices were applauded by environmental groups.

Browner, a principal at strategy firm The Albright Group LLC, had a long history at the EPA.

Chu, who would be the first Asian-American to lead the energy department, would work closely with Browner. Chu shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics for developing methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. He has been director of the Energy Department's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California since 1994.

Jackson was New Jersey's environmental protection commissioner until she became the governor's chief of staff this month.


Obama's Chicago retreat brings security challenges
When President-elect Barack Obama heads home for a break from the White House, he won't go to a sprawling ranch or private seaside compound.

Obama will come back to a crowded city neighborhood, creating security challenges for the Secret Service and perhaps headaches for his neighbors.

No other recent first family has lived in a city neighborhood like the Obama's. The $1.6 million mansion he and his wife share with their two daughters sits just off a busy street, a stretch of which has been closed to traffic, and his closest neighbors are a few feet away.

"My Kennebunkport is on the South Side of Chicago," Obama said in a recent interview with the Chicago Tribune. "Our friends are here. Our family is here. We are going to try to come back here as often as possible . . . at least once every six weeks or couple months."

His busy South Side neighborhood affords none of the privacy of President Bush's 1,600-acre Texas spread or Bush's father's seaside summer retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine. Ronald Reagan's White House in the West was his mountaintop Rancho del Cielo in California.

Like other presidents, Obama is sure to spend some of his down time at Camp David, the presidential retreat on a remote Maryland mountaintop, and in Hawaii, a regular vacation spot for him and where he spent much of his childhood.

For security reasons, the Obama's urban oasis already has changed. Their large red brick house doesn't have the benefit of being surrounded by acres of land, so the city streets near it look like a military zone with blocks-long metal and concrete barriers. Secret Service agents and police patrol the area.


Obama revitalizes weekly presidential radio address
In the 26 years since the weekly radio address became a modern White House staple, presidents have treated the speech to the nation as a task to be endured rather than an opportunity.

Not so with President-elect Barack Obama, who has been using his four minutes of weekend airtime not only to speak directly to the American people, but also to create news.

On Saturday, Obama used the address to announce Shaun Donovan, New York City's housing commissioner, as his nominee to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Obama has previously outlined a series of specific proposals aimed at reversing the nation's economic torpor, and he sketched out a plan to save or create 2.5 million jobs.

Dan Pfeiffer, the incoming White House deputy communications director, said Obama will continue to use the addresses "to make significant news."


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