Carol Browner, the former Clinton EPA head and the Obama's top energy and climate czar, is leaving the White House:
Some of Obama’s allies on and off Capitol Hill who two years ago considered Browner the leader of a dream team on their issues said they were concerned about the latest shakeup on the eve of a State of the Union where the president is expected to move to the center.
“This does strike me as a quiet kill, so to speak,” said a House Democratic aide who works on energy and environmental issues, including the 2009 cap-and-trade bill. “If there were a sacrificial lamb, it could have been on health care, financial issues, on a whole number of other things. But it’s the climate czar that’s going down.
“I don’t know the exact circumstances of it, but the circumstantial evidence, I think the timing is frankly fairly frightening,” the staffer added.
The Obama administration is about to face a full on assault from Hill Republicans and some moderate Democrats over the EPA’s authority to regulate for greenhouse gases. Browner had experience dealing with an antagonistic GOP Congress while leading EPA under the Clinton administration. Environmentalists were hopeful she could have played the same role on Obama’s team.
As a sop to business, Browner's departure is mostly a matter of symbolism. Obama's going to have to do a lot more than get rid of Browner -- he's going to have to muzzle an overeager EPA. Further, Obama's recent selection of General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to head the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness suggests business as usual, given G.E.'s status as an eco-subsidy suckler and one of the biggest lobbying powerhouses in Washington.