President Obama this week nominated Gina McCarthy, the current assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Air and Radiation, to head the EPA. He also nominated Dr. Ernest Moniz, currently a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for secretary of energy. Both are expected to face a difficult confirmation process.

McCarthy will replace Lisa Jackson as administrator of the EPA. Prior to her confirmation as assistant administrator for the EPA’s Air and Radiation office in 2009—a nomination even then contested by Republicans—McCarthy served as the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and has worked both at state and local levels on environmental issues. She has worked for four previous Massachusetts governors and was part of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 2003-appointed team to oversee the state’s environmental regulatory agenda—including the hefty task of shaping Massachusetts’s first climate protection action plan.

McCarthy holds a BA in social anthropology from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and a joint MS in environmental health engineering and planning and policy from Tufts University. She will face scrutiny for her role in various controversial air rulemakings since 2009.

Moniz, who "already knows his way around the Department of Energy," as President Obama mentioned as he introduced the two nominees on Tuesday, served as undersecretary of the DOE between 1997 and 2001, and from 1995 and 1997, as well as an associate director for science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President. Since 1973, he has also worked as a professor of physics and engineering at MIT and currently serves as director of the institution’s Laboratory for Energy and the Environment. His research focused on "energy technology and policy, including a leadership role in MIT interdisciplinary technology and policy studies on the future of nuclear power, coal, nuclear fuel cycles, natural gas, and solar energy in a low-carbon world,” according to MIT.

Moniz’s credentials include a BS degree summa cum laude in physics from Boston College, a doctorate in theoretical physics from Stanford University, and honorary doctorates from the University of Athens, the University of Erlangen-Nurenberg, and Michigan State University.

Experts said Moniz has already garnered the ire of some environmental groups for his advocacy of hydraulic fracturing and nuclear energy.

In other nomination news, Sally Jewel, nominee to serve as secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI), on Thursday appeared before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) for her confirmation hearing. Reports widely held that the REI CEO, who has won bipartisan praise for her stated support of expanded oil and gas development on public lands and waters, deflected many questions she faced.

“I think it is clear that she has some areas that she needs to get up to speed on and understand,” ENR ranking member Lisa Murkowski told reporters. “There’s some areas that there’s some gaps in understanding what actually comes with this portfolio. Doesn’t mean that she can’t learn it.”

Sources: POWERnews, The White House, EPA, MIT, ENR

Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@sonalcpatel, @POWERmagazine)