President Barack Obama named his nominees for two key cabinet posts Monday, both for increasingly important agencies that oversee and regulate energy development.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist Ernest Moniz was tapped to take over the reins of the Department of Energy while Gina McCarthy was nominated to take over as Environmental Protection Agency administrator. McCarthy currently runs the agency's air and radiation office.
Both nominations require Senate confirmation.
Moniz served as Under Secretary of Energy under President Bill Clinton and since then directed MIT's energy initiative, which focuses on developing new technologies to foster energy independence.
"Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our economy while still taking care of our air, our water and our climate," Obama said regarding the nomination, adding that the issues of climate change, job creation, and investing in American energy will be key priorities for the two agency posts.
Other environmental organizations echoed Obama's comments, lauding the nominations. Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, keyed into the challenges the nation faces as development of shale resources progresses.
"Moniz has repeatedly observed that just because the environmental challenges of shale gas are manageable—that does not mean that they are yet managed," Krupp said in a statement. "There is work that remains to be done to ensure the safety of communities living around oil and gas development, and to address the air pollution issues that go beyond the local neighbors...his perspective will be important in the national conversation."
But not everyone's thrilled about the new nominees or the explicit focus on climate change, both of which could make for a contentious confirmation process. Republicans have already signaled they are ready to tangle with the Obama administration over the nominations, with the new EPA pick potentially the bigger bone of contention.
The agency has been increasingly in the spotlight as the debate over global warming has intensified, especially since experts doubt a comprehensive climate change bill could make it through Congress. That, of course, leaves regulation, most likely through the EPA, as the only other option for addressing the climate change agenda.
In her current post, McCarthy has championed a slew of controversial air pollution policies, a record that some Republicans fear will lead her to broaden air and water pollution regulations if she's confirmed as head of the EPA.
"As head of the Air office, McCarthy oversaw some of the agency's most costly and controversial rules," Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe, ranking member of the Environment and Public Works committee, said in statement. "By nominating Gina McCarthy to replace Lisa Jackson, the President is making it clear that he wants to continue pursuing an aggressive climate agenda at the EPA."