Biden Administration Names Climate Advisors at NASA, SEC, USDA, GSA

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 03 Feb 2021 14:21:00 GMT


Administration names Gavin Schmidt, Robert Bonnie, Sonal Larsen, Satyam Khanna climate advisors (clockwise from top left)
President Joe Biden is continuing to build out an administration-wide climate infrastructure with new appointments. This interagency “climate cabinet,” anchored by National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry in the White House, looks to extend to every department. Here are the recent announcement for four diverse agencies:



National Aeronautic and Space Administration: Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, will serve in the newly created position of senior climate advisor. Schmidt has been GISS director since 2014. His main research interest is the use of climate modeling to understand past, present, and future climate change, and he has authored or co-authored more than 150 research papers in peer-reviewed literature. He is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was the inaugural winner of the AGU Climate Communication Prize in 2011. He also was awarded NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2017. He has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Oxford University and a doctorate in applied mathematics from University College London.

Securities and Exchange Commission: Satyam Khanna will serve as Senior Policy Advisor for Climate and Environmental and Social Governance. Khanna was most recently a resident fellow at NYU School of Law’s Institute for Corporate Governance and Finance and served on the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition’s Federal Reserve, Banking, and Securities Regulators Agency Review Team. He was previously a member of the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee, where he served on the Investor-As-Owner Subcommittee, and was a senior advisor to the Principles for Responsible Investment. Prior to that, he served as Counsel to SEC Commissioner Robert J. Jackson Jr. Earlier in his career, Khanna was a member of the staff of the Financial Stability Oversight Council at the U.S. Treasury Department and was a litigation associate at the law firm McDermott Will & Emery. He is a graduate of Columbia Law School and Washington University in St. Louis. He was also a blogger at ThinkProgress for the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Robert Bonnie was named Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Senior Advisor, Climate, in the Office of the Secretary: Most recently Bonnie served as an executive in residence at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University. Previously, he served as Director of the Farm and Forests Carbon Solutions Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center, where worked to develop new initiatives to combat the climate crisis through agricultural innovation. During the Obama Administration, he served as Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment and as a Senior Advisor to Secretary Vilsack for climate and the environment. He worked at the Environmental Defense Fund for 14 years. Bonnie holds a master’s degree in forestry and environmental management from Duke University, and a bachelor’s from Harvard College.

General Services Administration: Sonal Kemkar Larsen, formerly a national advisor for the mayoral level City Energy Project partnership in Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker’s sustainability office. She was a former official at both the White House Council of Environmental Quality and at the Department of Energy. Previously she was a sustainability consultant at the United Nations Environment Program in Bangkok. She will play a role as senior advisor on Climate.

Biden Transition Packed With Climate Hawks

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 16 Dec 2020 15:06:00 GMT

Even though the loser of the presidential election, Donald Trump, continues his quest for autogolpe, President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team is hard at work preparing his new administration. Among the hundreds of staff and volunteers comprising the agency review teams are dozens of climate hawks. These are people with significant experience in climate policy and politics. Some have careers rooted in environmental justice, while others are technologists.

Cabinet departments are listed in order of creation, an approximate reflection of their power and significance within the federal government. This post will be continually updated.

State (nominee: Tony Blinken)

Treasury (nominee: Janet Yellen)

  • Andy Green, a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer from 2014 to 2015 and a longtime counsel for U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), worked on pricing climate risk while at the SEC. As a Center for American Progress fellow, he has been an outspoken advocate for ending the financing of carbon polluters.
  • Marisa Lago, former Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development, has experience with international climate finance as well as urban climate adaptation planning. Lago is presently the director of city planning for New York City, having held similar roles in the 1990s for Boston and New York City. Before joining the Obama administration, Lago was Global Head of Compliance for Citigroup after a similar role at the S.E.C. running the Office of International Affairs.
  • Damon Silvers, long-time counsel and policy director for the AFL-CIO, has served on the board of Ceres for many years, advocating for labor’s interests in a green economy. He received his B.A., M.B.A., and J.D. from Harvard University and supported worker and divestment campaigns while a student there.
Defense (nominee: Gen. Lloyd Austin) Justice
  • Prominent environmental law scholar Richard Lazarus, a Harvard Law professor. His most recent book, The Law of Five, reviews the landmark Massachusetts v. EPA Supreme Court case which affirmed that greenhouse emissions are pollution. He served as the executive director of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Future of Offshore Drilling. In 1992, he was part of Clinton’s transition team for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. In a recent interview, he stated, “There’s no greater problem that overwhelms us these days in environmental law than climate change.”
Interior (nominee: Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.))
  • Maggie Thomas is the political director at Evergreen Action, a climate advocacy group run by veterans of Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign. Thomas was climate policy advisor for the Elizabeth Warren campaign after Inslee’s campaign ended, where she was deputy climate director. She joined Inslee’s campaign from Tom Steyer’s NextGen America organization. She holds a B.S. in biology and environmental management from Trinity College and a masters in environmental management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
  • Kate Kelly served in the Obama administration as senior adviser to and communications director for Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. She is the director of public lands at the Center for American Progress. Previously, she was communications director for Sen. Arlen Spector (R-Penn.) She has written on how the United States can equitably abandon fossil-fuel extraction and embrace renewable energy development on public lands.
  • Elizabeth Johnson Klein, an environmental attorney and former Deputy Assistant Secretary at Interior for Policy, Management & Budget during the Obama administration and served as assistant to the Secretary of the Interior in the Clinton administration. Klein is now the Deputy Director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law. For years she worked with Obama and Clinton Interior official David Hayes, the center’s director. She received her B.A. in economics from George Washington University and her JD from American University, where she was president of the Environmental Law Society. She has written on environmental justice and the dire need for climate leadership.
  • Robert (Bob) Anderson is a legal scholar whose career has been focused on protecting Native American water rights and environmental protection. In 2016, he reviewed the Dakota Access Pipeline conflict, noting that “the colonial process is on full display.” (He also wryly noted, “One might think that a multi-state project to carry a toxic substance would require an extensive federal appraisal, safety, and permitting process. Not so here.”)
Agriculture (nominee: Tom Vilsack)
  • Team lead Robert Bonnie, former U.S.D.A. Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment and Senior Advisor to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for environment and climate change, is the co-author of the Climate 21 Project’s U.S.D.A. chapter, which lays out a comprehensive climate agenda for the agency. Now a scholar at Duke University’s environmental policy institute, Bonnie was formerly the vice president for land conservation for the Environmental Defense Fund. He has a master’s in environmental management from Duke and a B.A. from Harvard.
  • Meryl Harrell, now the executive director at Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards, worked for Bonnie at the U.S.D.A. and was his co-author on the Climate 21 Project chapter. She has a B.A. in geoscience and environmental studies from Princeton and a J.D. from Yale Law School.
  • Jonathan Coppess, former chief counsel for the Senate Agriculture Committee and administrator of the U.S.D.A. Farm Service Agency, has worked on biofuels programs including the Renewable Fuels Standard and biomass crops as well as several land, water, and soil conservation programs for farmers.
  • Andrea Delgado is a co-founder of Green Latinos, a national Latino environmental justice organization. Currently the chief lobbyist for the United Farm Workers Foundation, she was previously legislative director of the Healthy Communities program at Earthjustice.
  • John Padalino is the former administrator for USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, having also served as Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary for Rural Development to Acting Principal Deputy General Counsel in the department. He works on rural water and electric cooperatives and is now general counsel to Bandera Electric Cooperative, a rural Texas electricity provider that has been working on smart grids and solar deployment for its members.
  • Jeffrey Prieto is a long-time Department of Justice environmental lawyer who helped set up its environmental justice division. He rose to general counsel at USDA during the Obama administration. He is presently general counsel for the Los Angeles Community College District.
Commerce
  • Karen Hyun, Ph.D. is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior and was Interior Secretary John Bryson’s senior policy adviser on energy and environment issues. She is now Vice President for Coastal Conservation at the National Audubon Society. She has a Ph.D. in Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island M.S. and B.S. in Earth Systems from Stanford University.
  • Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., former NOAA administrator. Both an oceanographer and astronaut, she is the only human to have both walked in space and visited the Challenger Deep. She served as NOAA’s chief scientist during the Clinton administration. She received her bachelor’s in earth sciences from U.C. Santa Cruz and her Ph.D. in geology from Dalhousie University. She has written on the urgency of the climate crisis and fought attempts by climate denier Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) to hobble her agency.
  • Political scientist Todd Tucker, director of governance studies at the Roosevelt Institute, author of The Green New Deal: A Ten-Year Window to Reshape International Economic Law. Tucker has a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. He was the long time research director at Public Citizen.
  • Kris Sarri, President and CEO, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. She was a climate and oceans Senate staffer with Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) from 2006 to 2010, and worked in the Obama administration as chief climate and oceans staff in the Commerce Department, and rose to senior positions at the Office of Management and Budget and Interior. An Ann Arbor native, she received her MS and MPH from the University of Michigan and BA from Washington University in St Louis.
  • Dr. Sandra Whitehouse, oceanographer and marine policy expert who has studied the impacts of climate change on our oceans. She is a senior policy advisor for the Nature Conservancy and the wife of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). Dr. Whitehouse holds a B.S. from Yale University and a Ph.D. in biological oceanography from the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. As her husband has done on the Senate floor, Dr. Whitehouse has raised the alarm about the crisis of climate pollution. “We are just beginning to understand the far-reaching impacts temperature change is having on ecosystems and wildlife. We are seeing the entire collapse of deep-sea ecosystems, and we don’t know what those ramifications are.”

Labor

  • Josh Orton, senior policy advisor to climate champion Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). As Orton said when Sanders unveiled his climate plan during his presidential campaign, “This threat is beyond ideology — it’s a question of life and death.”

Health and Human Services none

Housing and Urban Development none

Transportation

  • Patty Monahan, lead commissioner on transportation for the California Energy Commission. Monahan has worked on clean transportation policy and advocacy for the Energy Foundation, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She received a B.S. in environmental studies from U.C. Berkeley and an M.S. from the Energy Analysis and Policy program of the University of Wisconsin. Monahan: “Climate Change was and remains the single biggest problem facing our world and energy is a major piece of the puzzle.”
  • Dr. Austin Brown, executive director of the UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, the Environment, and the Economy. Brown was the Assistant Director for Clean Energy and Transportation in the Obama White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. He has also worked in the Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. He holds a B.S. in physics from Harvey Mudd College and a Ph.D. in biophysics from Stanford University. He is working towards a zero-carbon transportation sector.

Climate disclosure, focusing on measuring financial risks and opportunities

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 31 Oct 2007 18:30:00 GMT

Committee page

Witnesses
  • Dr. Gary Yohe, Professor of Economics, Wesleyan University
  • Mr. Jeffery Smith, Partner in Charge of Environmental Practice, Cravath, Swaine, and Moore
  • Ms. Mindy Lubber, President, Ceres
  • Mr. Russell Read, Chief Investment Officer, California Public Employees’ Retirement System

Financial Week:

Senate Banking Committee takes up corporate disclosure of financial risk from climate change By Nicholas Rummell October 31, 2007

Several leading Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee say they want to push for greater disclosure from companies about the financial risk they face from climate change.

The move by Democrats is largely the by-product of a petition sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission last month. That petition requested that the SEC require companies to spell out material losses from climate change, such as the impact of new fuel regulations on automakers.

According to the petitioners, who include regulators in 11 states as well as institutional investors and advocacy groups, companies are currently required to delineate such risks under accounting rules, but they often fail to meet those requirements because of poor regulatory guidance. Business groups often argue that such information is confidential.

A Banking Committee hearing on the topic late last month was sparsely attended, by only Democratic members, but it shows congressional interest in the financial risks argument. Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) said he thinks the federal government should act to “chart a new course” for stopping climate change and improving financial returns for companies, which he called “two ends of a problem.”

A bill being marked up in another Senate committee reportedly would require new SEC regulations to require public companies to inform shareholders about financial disclosure of and economic impact of global warming on the company. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.), places caps on carbon emissions.

Current climate change disclosures are inconsistent, which makes it difficult for investors to compare one company’s disclosure with others, said Russell Read, chief investment officer at the $259 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System. Mr. Read said the SEC currently can require greater disclosure, but that it probably needs “prodding” by Congress to do so.

Some feel additional disclosure would lead to more inconsistent filings. Gary Yohe, an economics professor at Wesleyan University, said that, depending on whether a company evaluates risk to customers or the entire social cost of carbon use, “you get a wide range of numbers.”

Such guidance should focus only on companies that would be significantly impacted by climate change. “It would be a mistake for everyone to say something,” said Jeffrey Smith, lead partner in the environmental practice at law firm Cravath Swaine & Moore. Flooding the market with insignificant disclosure would hurt investors, he said, noting that companies should be “poised” to address useful information in filings. “Fake numbers are bad.”

Mindy Lubber, president of environmental advocacy group Ceres, testified that insurers face quantifiable financial risks from prolonged droughts and wildfires, energy companies face climate-change litigation and other companies face risk from greenhouse gas regulations. She cited recent investment bank research reports as evidence that Wall Street is starting to pay attention to the costs attributed to climate change.

Ms. Lubber said the petitioners don’t want “an onerous new disclosure regime,” but rather to tighten up current accounting standards on physical risks that can be evaluated, such as litigation or losses due to hurricanes. Petitioners in recent years have repeatedly asked the SEC to issue guidance, but the SEC has ignored such requests, she said.

The clamor for financial disclosure related to climate change has also made for strange bedfellows. Steven Milloy and Thomas Borelli, climate change skeptics and mutual fund managing partners, filed a petition for rule-making with the SEC earlier this month. They want companies to have to disclose the business risks of laws and regulations that address global warming.

The two activists, critical of the global warming movement and attempts at regulation, found that of 21 corporate members of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, only five disclosed that global warming regulation is a business risk. USCAP is a group of 33 companies and environmental groups that calls for significant reductions in greenhouse gases. “USCAP members,” Messrs. Milloy and Borelli wrote in their petition, “are keeping shareholders in the dark.”

Case in point, the two say, is the impact on General Electric’s labor force of the proposed shift to compact fluorescent light bulbs from incandescent bulbs. GE manufactures the environmentally friendly compact bulbs in China, which has caused friction with the company’s U.S. employees. The petition also targets PepsiCo, Du Pont and Caterpillar—also members of USCAP—for not disclosing financial risks adequately, as well as Wal-Mart, which is not a member.

“Global warming regulation represents a serious risk to publicly owned corporations, yet this threat to corporate earnings and shareholder value is not being disclosed to shareholders,” the petition stated.

According to Ms. Lubber and supporters, companies actually could reap benefits by addressing climate change. One analysis cited by Ms. Lubber found that U.S. electric power companies that have not prepared for the future cost of carbon regulations could see losses in earnings of up to 17%. Conversely, the same analysis found that companies with less polluting fuel mixes could see earnings increase by as much as 15%, she said.

The SEC has not issued a response on either petition and is not required to do so, though staffers may review them.

Environmental proxy proposals seeking more data on financial risk from global warming have come into vogue (see “Green Proxies to Be Red Hot This Season,” FW, Oct. 29). Last year, environmental activist shareholders filed a record-breaking number of green proposals; even more are planned for the 2008 season.