Washington – Carol M. Browner, the White House coordinator for energy and climate change policy, will leave the administration shortly, officials confirmed Monday night. Her departure signals at least a temporary slowing of the ambitious environmental goals of President Obama’s first two years in the face of new Republican strength in Congress.
Ms. Browner, a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, was charged with directing the administration’s effort to enact comprehensive legislation to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases and moving the country away from a dependence on dirty-burning fossil fuels. That effort foundered in Congress last year, and Mr. Obama has acknowledged that no major climate change legislation is likely to pass in the next two years.
No decision has been made on whether she would be replaced or if the position would simply disappear, a White House official said.
“She will stay on as long as necessary to ensure an orderly transition,” a White House official said. “Carol is confident that the mission of her office will remain critical to the president.”
News of her departure was first reported by Politico.
An aide to Ms. Browner said she was proud of her White House accomplishments, including helping to coordinate response to the BP oil spill and fashioning a deal under which automobile fuel efficiency will increase by nearly 25 percent over the next five years. The aide said Ms. Browner was also pleased that Mr. Obama’s State of the Union message would include a strong endorsement of the clean-energy policies she championed.
But she is leaving with her major goals unmet and the E.P.A. — where she served for eight years under President Bill Clinton — under siege by Republicans who believe it is strangling job creation by imposing costly new pollution rules.
In recent weeks there has been speculation that Ms. Browner would be moved to another senior position at the White House, perhaps deputy chief of staff, with a broader portfolio. But those rumors did not pan out and instead Ms. Browner decided to return to the private sector.
Ms. Browner is known as a savvy navigator of the bureaucracy and a strong voice for environmental protection in a White House that was focused more on health care and the economy. Her departure leaves the administration’s other major environmental and energy policy makers without a strong advocate at the White House.
But in the face of Republican skepticism about climate change and strong opposition to environmental regulation, the administration will be spending more time defending the modest policy gains of the past two years than advancing new proposals.
Scott Segal, an energy expert at Bracewell & Giuliani, a law and lobbying firm in Washington, said Ms. Browner’s leaving might be a sign that the administration would be more sensitive to the concerns of business.
This article “Director of Policy on Climate Will Leave, Her Goal Unmet” originally appeared at The New York Times.
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