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Obama fills first environment post, sources say

President-elect Barack Obama has selected a deputy mayor of Los Angeles to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, transition officials said Wednesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

President-elect Barack Obama has selected a deputy mayor of Los Angeles to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, transition officials said Wednesday. Nancy Sutley is the first prominent member of the gay and lesbian community to earn a senior role in the Democrat's new administration.

With many of his top White House and Cabinet posts filled, Obama now is focusing on fleshing out his natural resources and environment team, and could formally introduce his choices for interior secretary, energy secretary and environmental protection agency chief within weeks if not days.

Two transition officials disclosed Sutley's selection on the condition of anonymity because Obama had not yet made the announcement.

Sutley supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton during the Democratic primary and was a member of her Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender steering committee.

Worked in Clinton administration
The deputy mayor for energy and environment in Los Angeles, Sutley has a long record of working on environmental and natural resources policy. She is also the mayor's representative on the Board of Directors for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

She previously served on the California State Water Resources Control Board, which is responsible for protecting water quality and resources throughout the state, and was the energy adviser to former Gov. Gray Davis.

During President Bill Clinton's administration, Sutley was an EPA official, including being a special assistant to the EPA administrator in Washington.

Obama has chosen much of his Cabinet, with the most prominent positions — treasury, justice, state and defense — already filled, and he is now turning to other posts. He is expected to officially name former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle as his secretary of health and human services as early as this week.

Physicist for energy chief?
Officials close to the transition team privately say that Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, appears to be increasingly on track to become energy secretary.

A Chinese-American, Chu is a professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California-Berkeley and has been the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004, where he has pushed aggressively for research into alternative energy as a way to combat global warming.

It is the oldest of the Energy Department's national laboratories, but does only unclassified work and in recent years under Chu has been at the center of research into biofuels and solar technologies. Chu has been a strong advocate for the need to engage scientists in the search for ways to combat global warming by replacing fossil fuels with other energy sources such as biofuels and the sun.

EPA chief names floated
Sources close to Obama's transition also say former New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection commissioner Lisa Jackson and Mary Nichols, who heads the California Air Resources Board, are in the running for the EPA administrator post. Both women worked at the EPA under Clinton EPA chief Carol Browner, who is leading the energy and environmental policy team for Obama's transition.

Browner, who ran the agency for 8 years, is expected to be named to a new position in the Obama White House overseeing energy, environment and climate matters. But officials say there was still some discussion over whether Browner would share her duties with Sutley or another adviser on energy and environmental matters.

The position of interior secretary is still in flux.

Support for John Berry, the director of the National Zoo and a former assistant secretary at the department, was growing, officials said. Gay and lesbian advocacy groups backing Berry, who is gay, were expected to meet with the transition team in Washington on Wednesday.

But officials said Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva and California Rep. Mike Thompson were still in the running to lead the agency, depending on how other positions shake out.