With Staff Changes, EPA Sharpens Climate Focus

BEIJING, CHINA - DECEMBER 9: U.S. Environment Protection Administrator Gina McCarthy attends the opening session of the joint committee of the Environmental Cooperation held at the Diaoyutai State guesthouse on December 9, 2013 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Ng Han Guan - Pool / Getty Images)
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Amy Harder
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Amy Harder
Dec. 12, 2013, 2:35 p.m.

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency is shuffling the agency’s staff to put greater focus on President Obama’s climate agenda.

In an announcement issued last week and obtained Thursday by National Journal Daily, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy named Joel Beauvais to be associate administrator for EPA’s policy office, a spot left vacant when Michael Goo left the post earlier this fall for the Energy Department.

Beauvais has a background in global warming. He worked on House cap-and-trade legislation from 2007 to 2010 while counsel to the now-defunct Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and then as counsel to the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Prior to this post, Beauvais was associate assistant administrator in EPA’s air and radiation office, which McCarthy led prior to her appointment as administrator earlier this year.

McCarthy also promoted Alisha Johnson, previously press secretary, to be deputy associate administrator for EPA’s office for external affairs and environmental education.

“I am confident that in these new roles, Joel and Alisha will continue to be instrumental as we implement the President’s Climate Action Plan and continue our work to protect human health and the environment,” McCarthy said in the Dec. 3 memo making the announcements.

These promotions come on the heels of additional changes McCarthy made to her personal office this summer in a way that, according to a memo McCarthy sent to staff in July, will “emphasize working with the White House and key stakeholders to create opportunities to highlight the benefits of our work.”

The memo highlights several changes in staff working closest with McCarthy.

Lisa Feldt, formerly deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s solid waste and emergency response office, is now associate deputy administrator of EPA. Arvin Ganesan, formerly associate administrator for EPA’s congressional affairs and intergovernmental relations office, is now deputy chief of staff for policy.

Feldt and Ganesan will focus on a range of issues across the agency “in an effort to streamline our processes, maximize efficiency and identify opportunities to highlight activities that provide the greatest on the ground environmental benefit,” McCarthy said in the memo.

Feldt has been focusing heavily on policies related to methane emissions, according to sources familiar with her portfolio. The administration’s handling of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent harmful than carbon dioxide, has faced more scrutiny as the country becomes more dependent on natural gas, a fossil fuel that is composed primarily of methane but burns with half the carbon emissions of coal. It’s for that reason the conventional wisdom indicates natural gas is better for global warming than coal. But peer-reviewed studies are raising questions about how much methane is inadvertently leaked during production and transmission of natural gas, triggering calls from environmentalists for increased regulations. EPA has argued that rules issued in 2012 to limit traditional pollutants like sulfur dioxide also have the effect of reducing methane emissions.

Taking Ganesan’s spot in the congressional affairs and intergovernmental relations office is Laura Vaught, who was previously Ganesan’s deputy. According to her LinkedIn profile, Vaught has worked on Capitol Hill for more than a decade, including as chief of staff to former Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., who was instrumental in crafting the House cap-and-trade bill.

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