By Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 15, 2009
This is the second go-round for Carol M. Browner as a top White House adviser on the environment. She served during both terms as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton and later became a principal at the Albright Group. During an interview this week, she joked about her new moniker as Barack Obama's energy "czarina." But there was no kidding about the challenges she faces as the first-ever assistant to the president for energy and climate -- a position she insists will coordinate and form policy rather than usurp power from other agencies. Either way, Browner, 53, will wield broad influence over environmental policies and see her portfolio expand into international affairs, job creation and the embattled auto industry.
Watch the entire interview here.
Lois Romano: They call you czarina?
Carol Browner: The president-elect has decided that he wants to have a senior adviser in the White House whose responsibility is to focus on energy and climate-change policy, in the same way you have General [James] Jones, who focuses on national security. . . . [Obama] said, "I want to make sure that we have a clear voice, a team of people focused on energy and climate change."
LR: What Bush initiatives do you have your eye on to roll back?
CB: Unfortunately, the list is rather long. . . . The Supreme Court ruled almost two years ago now that the EPA has some authorities to look at greenhouse gas emissions. . . . The current administration declined to do that.
LR: What important actions did you take during your tenure at the EPA that the Bush administration undid?
CB: There [was a] failure to really recognize that we don't have to choose between strong public health . . . environmental protections and a strong economy. The Bush administration was constantly saying, "Oh, this is going to be bad for the economy." . . . There were individual decisions, failures to regulate mercury from power plants . . . failure to really enforce the law when there is an egregious violation of our pollution standards.
LR: How do you get the American people to change the way they do business?
CB: I don't doubt that somebody will say, "Oh my gosh, they're talking about we are never going to be able to drive our cars again." We are not talking about not driving cars. We are talking about driving different cars . . . cleaner cars. We recognize that, for many Americans, cars are an important part of how they get to work. . . . It's about figuring out ways to make our lives better. . . . It's a win-win.