Carol Browner Steps Down

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Carol Browner, assistant to the president for energy and climate change, has resigned her position, which analysts are speculating signals a shift in White House environmental policy. The Hill reports that FBR Capital Markets stated they believe "her resignation on the eve of the State of the Union is another signal that the Obama Administration may be softening its approach to environmental regulations, especially those aimed at raising prices and/or reducing fossil fuel consumption." An unnamed "Virginia-based investment house," according to The Hill, commented "We expect the President to use tonight's State of the Union speech to continue exploring common ground with Republicans including regulatory reform, clean energy, manufacturing competitiveness, and research and development. This should be viewed as positive for fossil fuel and particularly coal companies, which faced a slew of regulatory issues including mountaintop mining, coal ash, the Clean Air Transport Rule, and a utility MACT [maximum achievable control technology] rule." The New York Times reports that energy lobbyist Scott Segal commented "Carol Browner was a passionate contributor to a strong White House commitment to environmental policy," he said. "Her departure may be part of a legitimate effort to pay careful attention to addressing some of the real regulatory obstacles in the way of job creation in the United States." The Times also noted that Browner's "departure from the White House is something of a surprise. While it was widely assumed that she was going to reduce her energy and environment portfolio, Browner was expected to stay on in another role, perhaps as a deputy chief of staff. But the fact that she had not been vetted by the Senate for her current position continued to rankle Republicans, who had threatened to call her in to testify in this new Congress, particularly about her work on the climate bill."

The Wall Street Journal reported that a "Democrat close to the White House said there is 'no question' that Ms. Browner's post would be eliminated. Asked why, he noted that cabinet secretaries do not like having high-level policy officials at the White House working in their fields. He also said the job will be eliminated 'because there will be no climate or carbon bill in the next two years.'" The Journal also notes that the resignation "comes at a time when the White House is reaching out to business leaders on several fronts. Democrats familiar with the White House thinking cited other reasons for the step. But eliminating the energy czar post would likely be welcomed by many business leaders, who view Ms. Browner as a leading advocate for environmental regulations they oppose."

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