By Valerie Volcovici, Jarrett Renshaw and David Shepardson
Dec 15 (Reuters) - President-elect Joe Biden is close to announcing a slate of Cabinet nominees who will be central to his administration’s sweeping plan to fight climate change, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The picks include a diverse list of nominees to head the departments of Energy, Transportation and the Interior, as well as a new office leading domestic climate policy coordination at the White House, the sources said.
On their shoulders would be Biden’s goal of moving the United States to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 – a once-unimaginable task that will require the world’s second-largest emitter to overhaul major parts of its economy, from cars, trucks and planes to power plants, farms and buildings.
The agenda is intended to help the United States and the rest of the world avoid the worst effects of global warming, while creating millions of clean-energy jobs. But the plan was a lightning rod of contention during the presidential contest, with Republican President Donald Trump and his allies arguing it was unnecessary and would bankrupt the country.
Among the most high-profile picks, Biden’s transition team is expected to name Gina McCarthy, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration, to lead domestic climate policy coordination, two sources familiar with the process said. Biden's team did not comment.
McCarthy, 66, would oversee domestic climate change policy efforts across all government agencies and departments, and serve as a counterpart to former Secretary of State John Kerry, whom Biden appointed as his special envoy on climate change.
She is currently president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmental group. As EPA administrator to President Barack Obama, she crafted some of his administration's signature climate policies, including the Clean Power Plan to slash emissions from power plants.
Her deputy will be Ali Zaidi, chairman of climate policy and finance for New York state, according to the sources.
Biden has also tapped Pete Buttigieg to lead the U.S. Transportation Department, making him the first of Biden's Democratic rivals for the presidency to land a role in his Cabinet, Biden's team confirmed.
"This is a moment of tremendous opportunity-to create jobs, meet the climate challenge, and enhance equity for all," Buttigieg said later in a tweet.
The appointment of Buttigieg, 38, is another step in a meteoric political rise for the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and would put him in charge of a sprawling federal agency that oversees the nation's airlines, highways and transit systems – the biggest source of U.S. emissions.
Buttigieg, if confirmed, would also make history as the first openly LGBTQ Cabinet secretary to be approved by the Senate.
Biden is also expected to pick former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to be secretary of energy in his administration, two people familiar with the decision said on Tuesday.
Granholm, 61, was Michigan's first female governor, serving two terms in the battleground state from 2003 to 2011, where she supported efforts to build advanced battery plants for electric cars in Michigan, despite concerns from some in the auto industry about moving away from gasoline-powered engines.
If confirmed by the Senate, Granholm is expected to play a role in the department's support of advanced batteries, energy efficiency and electricity generation from renewable and nuclear power. She would also likely deal with energy ministers in Russia, Saudi Arabia and other oil- and gas-producing countries, still important sources of energy to the United States.
A spokesman for Granholm did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Biden's transition team did not comment.
For the interior secretary post, Biden appears to favor U.S. Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico, three informed sources said, a pick, that if confirmed by the Senate, would make her the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency.
The position would give Haaland, 60, authority over a department that employs more than 70,000 people across the United States and oversees more than 20% of the nation's surface, including tribal lands and national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite.
She has told Reuters she would seek to usher in an expansion of renewable energy production on federal land to contribute to the fight against climate change, and undo Trump's focus on bolstering fossil-fuels output.
The Trump administration used the Interior Department as a key tool in its "energy dominance" agenda, which prioritized deregulation and fast-tracking of fossil fuel projects to maximize domestic oil, gas, and coal output. About a fifth of U.S. oil production comes from federal leases.
Biden has yet to announce a decision on who should lead the Environmental Protection Agency, but is vetting several serious contenders, including Michael Regan, who leads North Carolina’s environmental regulator, and Mary Nichols, head of California’s Air Resources Board, said sources close to the matter.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in New York, Jarrett Renshaw in Atlanta, and Timothy Gardner, David Shepardson and Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Peter Cooney)