WASHINGTON – Carol Browner, President Barack Obama’s controversial climate and energy czar, will step down soon, White House officials said Tuesday, in a move that some energy lobbyists saw as another signal that the administration wants to make amends with an alienated business community by reconsidering environmental regulation.
Many environmentalists, for their part, said that Browner’s resignation in itself did not signal a retreat from environmental protections. But both sides said they are watching closely for the White House’s next steps, including whether a successor to Browner will be named, who that person is and what the mandate would be.
“Browner has been the President’s clean energy and climate conscience,” wrote Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, an environmental group. “If he doesn’t reach out for someone high profile to replace her, it will appear as if those issues have become very subordinate to the re-election campaign.”
Browner and her boss failed to win congressional passage for climate change legislation, which is now effectively dead given the greater Republican presence in Congress.
But she helped broker a landmark agreement among the EPA, Transportation Department and the automakers to increase vehicle fuel-efficiency standards in order to reduce greenhouse gases emissions.