Obama enviros


My list of 37 influential environmentalists who are in -- or very close to -- the Obama administration (updated most recently on Sept. 10, 2009):

I'm not saying environmentalists run everything now -- far from it. But most commentators focus on industry people who gain political power, so I'll contribute something original by tracking enviros. And it's interesting.

These are people who have direct ties to environmental groups, or clear leanings in that direction, along with various other credentials such as professorships and previous government service.

I'm defining "environmental group" somewhat loosely. I've included progressive or organic farming groups, for instance, and one unusual state agency (the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, which uses lottery revenues to buy open space and wildlife habitat).

Most of these groups are centrist or in the conservative wing of the environmental movement, not the left wing. Environmental Defense Fund and American Rivers seem to have the most representation in the Obama admin.

No lefties like Western Watersheds or Center for Biological Diversity folks on the list. No Sierra Club, no Greenpeace etc.

I've organized the list beginning with the departments most important to the West, and within each department people are listed according to the rough hierarchy (most powerful first) ...

I'll update this list whenever I learn of more Obama enviros.

If you know of more, let me know and I'll add them to the list.


David Hayes
Deputy Interior Secretary (the #2 job)
Former World Wildlife Fund senior fellow, former American Rivers board chairman

Tom Strickland
Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Co-founder Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund

Michael Bean
Senior Adviser to Assistant Secretary Tom Strickland
Former attorney for Environmental Defense Fund

Ned Farquhar
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management
Former Natural Resources Defense Council staffer in the Southwest, and former adviser to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on green issues

Will Shafroth
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Former Land Trust Alliance board member and board chair, founder and former executive director Colorado Conservation Land Trust, former executive director Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, former Western regional director American Farmland Trust

Elizabeth Birnbaum
Head of Minerals Management Service
Former American Rivers vice president

Rhea Suh
Assistant Secretary for Policy Management and Budget
Formerly supervised grants to environmental groups for David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation


Robert Bonnie
Senior Adviser to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack on Environment and Climate, including roadless national forest issues
Former Environmental Defense Fund vice president for land, water and wildlife issues

Kathleen Merrigan
Deputy Secretary
Former Tufts University assistant professor of ag and nutrition sciences, former adviser to Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, former board member of The Organic Center, a scientific group for "conversion of agriculture to organic methods" partly based on environmental issues, and ties to similar groups

Harris Sherman
Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment (needs Senate approval)
Colorado Department of Natural Resources executive director, other positions in Colorado commissions and boards over water quality, air quality, mine reclamation, wildlife and forest health, and "active in land conservation efforts with the Nature Conservancy, Colorado Open Lands, and the Trust for Public Land," according to his bio

Jay Jensen
Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment (mostly oversees Forest Service)
Former executive director of Council of Western State Foresters / Western Forestry Leadership Coalition, which has concerns about climate change, old growth, water quality and invasive species

Ann Mills
Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment (oversees Natural Resources Conservation Service)
Former American Rivers vice president and conservation director, former senior staffer for South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle when he ran the Senate, graduate of National Outdoor Leadership School

Jim Miller
Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service
Former chief of staff National Farmers Union, a progressive ag group whose concerns include climate change, improving pesticide management and incentives for providing wildlife habitat


Lisa Jackson
EPA Administrator
Former positions in Clinton EPA and New Jersey's environmental agency, advocate for clean energy and regulation of emissions that cause climate change

Robert Perciasepe
Deputy Administrator (needs Senate approval)
Former National Audubon Society COO and senior vice president, former positions in Clinton EPA and Maryland environmental agencies

Robert Sussman
Senior Policy Counsel
Former Environmental Law Institute board member, former senior fellow Center for American Progress, where he advocated for environmental protections, and former EPA positions for Clinton and George H.W. Bush

Lisa Heinzerling
Senior Policy Counsel on Climate Change
Former Georgetown University environmental law professor who won landmark Clean Air Act case forcing EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, former "affiliated scholar" at Center for American Progress Action Fund (advocating for environmental regulations)

Cynthia Giles
Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
Former leader in the Conservation Law Foundation, which bills itself as "New England's leading environmental advocacy organization," and former positions in Clinton EPA and Massachusetts environmental agency

Michelle DePass
Assistant Administrator for International Activities
Former manager of Ford Foundation's program for environmental justice, former board member of the online enviro news operation Grist, former executive director New York City Environmental Justice Alliance

Marty Stanislaus
Assistant Administrator for Solid Waste and Emergency Response
Former board member of New York City Environmental Justice Alliance


Steven Chu
Secretary of Energy
Nobel-Prize winning physicist, former director Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, former University of California-Berkeley prof, former Stanford prof, advocates for clean energy and action on climate change

Cathy Zoi
Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Former CEO of Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection, former Clinton White House Chief of Staff for environmental and energy issues, former EPA position for George H.W. Bush where she also advocated for action on climate change

David Sandalow
Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs
Former World Wildlife Fund executive vice president, former senior fellow at liberal Brookings Institution, author of "Freedom from Oil"

Richard G. Newell
Administrator of Energy Information Administration
Former Duke University associate professor of energy and environmental economics, former fellow at Resources for the Future, a think tank promoting science on climate change, and former positions in other intersections of environmental and economic issues


Jane Lubchenco
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Director, includes NOAA Fisheries setting salmon policy
Former Oregon State University marine ecology professor, where she advocated for better regulation of ocean fishing and action on climate change, former board member Environmental Defense Fund


Carol Browner
White House Energy Czar -- Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change
Former Clinton EPA administrator, where she advocated for environmental regulations, former chair National Audubon Society, former board member other enviro groups

Nancy Sutley
Council on Environmental Quality Chairman
Former career advocating for environmental and energy regulations in federal agencies, state and local governments, in California and D.C.

John Holdren
Top Obama adviser on science and technology issues -- titled the Director of Office of Science and Technology Policy and Co-Chair of President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology
Former Harvard professor of environmental policy, former University of California-Berkeley physics professor, advocates for environmental regulations and condemns climate change skeptics as the "dangerous … denier fringe," reports Washington Post

Phil Schiliro
Assistant to the President and Director of Legislative Affairs
Former "environmentalist teenager" who organized his Long Island neighborhood to shut down a polluter, reports the Washington Post, and former longtime staffer for California Rep. Henry Waxman, where he advocated for environmental regulations

Denis McDonough
Top National Security Aide
Former senior fellow Center for American Progress (included green issues)


Todd D. Stern
Special Envoy for Climate Change Action, reports to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
Former senior fellow Center for American Progress (advocating for action on climate change)

Gregory Jaczko
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman
Former Georgetown University adjunct professor, longtime advocate against Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada

Christopher H. Schroeder
Assistant Attorney General for Office of Legal Policy in Justice Department (needs Senate approval)
Duke University law professor, former staffer for Senate Judiciary Committee under then-Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, former Clinton Justice Department, former adviser to Environmental Defense Fund, former adviser to Clean Air Trust, former vice president of Center for Progressive Reform (advocating for environmental regulations), former member of Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council

Bart Chilton
Chair of Commodity Futures Trading Commission's Energy and Environmental Markets Advisory Committee (EEMAC)
Former chief of staff and lobbyist for National Farmers Union, a progressive ag group whose concerns include climate change, improving pesticide management and incentives for providing wildlife habitat

John Podesta
Center for American Progress founder, president and CEO
Progressive think tank helped shape Obama's campaign and administration, often advocates for environmental issues; Podesta is also a former board member League of Conservation Voters, co-organizer of 1990 Earth Day

Mitch Stewart
Organizing for America executive director
Group runs e-mail list of 13 million volunteers recruited during Obama's presidential campaign as "an unprecedented grassroots policy movement … intent on helping the president pass his most crucial policy initiatives," reports the Washington Post; Stewart is also a former Environmental Defense Fund national field director, where he worked on climate change issues

Frank Loy
Adviser and fundraiser for Obama's campaign
Board member Environmental Defense Fund and ties to other green groups

About Ray

Ray has been a Western journalist since 1979. He's now High Country News senior editor, based in Bozeman, Montana. He's earned national recognition including a George Polk Award for political reporting, a Sidney Hillman Foundation Journalism Award for investigating oil-field accidents, and an Investigative Reporters & Editors scroll for going undercover as a prison inmate. He's had three novels published.