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Top Clinton Aide to Roll Out $370 Billion Climate Law for Biden

Sept. 2, 2022, 4:05 PMUpdated: Sept. 2, 2022, 5:49 PM

President Joe Biden will appoint John Podesta, former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and a leader on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, to spearhead the rollout of the $370 billion climate law signed last month.

Podesta will partially replace top climate change adviser Gina McCarthy, who will leave her post on Sept. 16, as the president looks to implement the suite of clean energy tax credits and climate programs. McCarthy’s deputy, Ali Zaidi, will also become one of the president’s top climate change advisers, according to a statement from Biden.

Podesta’s “deep roots in climate and clean energy policy and his experience at senior levels of government mean we can truly hit the ground running to take advantage of the massive clean energy opportunity in front of us,” Biden said in the statement.

McCarthy, with climate envoy John Kerry, helped bring the US back into the global fight against rising temperatures. She crafted the administration’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the country and led the execution of Biden’s promise to halve them by 2030.

The moves come as the Biden administration begins to implement the climate package the president says will help the US reach those goals. The moment Biden signed the climate package was effectively a starting gun for officials across the administration to write new policies to implement the law.

The administration is also implementing last year’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. That measure funds water infrastructure, environmental remediation, and climate resilience projects across the nation.

Crucial Credibility

McCarthy joined Biden’s team shortly after he won the presidency, having led the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama.

“I am immensely grateful for Gina’s service,” Biden said in a statement. “Gina has been an invaluable member of my senior staff since day 1 of the Administration, and I wish her the best as she moves forward.”

One of her signature achievements at the EPA was the Clean Power Plan, a sweeping rule that would have sharply cut carbon emissions from the power sector. The rule never took effect, however, first due to legal challenges that reached the Supreme Court and ultimately by a repeal from the Trump administration.

To Alex Flint, executive director of Alliance for Market Solutions, McCarthy’s plain-spoken, charismatic style, coupled with the credibility she brought to the role as a former EPA head, was a crucial factor in inspiring and motivating environmentalists.

“Major policy initiatives have to get the details right, but they also have to draw people in,” Flint said. “They have to create enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. That means personality and enthusiasm and commitment are important elements, and Gina has those.”

McCarthy has long been a target of congressional Republicans. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.), top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, called McCarthy and Kerry “unaccountable czars” who have been directing the administration’s climate policy behind the scenes.

A group of Republican House members introduced a resolution to impeach her in 2015.

—With assistance from Stephen Lee.

(Updates with additional reporting throughout.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Courtney Rozen in Washington at crozen@bgov.com; Stephen Lee in Washington at stephenlee@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bernie Kohn at bkohn@bloomberglaw.com; Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bloombergindustry.com