John Kerry, by Creative Commons' Mark Mathosian, 2012John Kerry, by Creative Commons' Mark Mathosian, 2012

John Kerry, by Creative Commons’ Mark Mathosian, 2012John Kerry, by Creative Commons’ Mark Mathosian, 2012

A new Presidential term always starts with some changes, but there are several in store for President Obama’s second term that could make a big difference for the environment. Some of the positions that will have new leadership include Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of State, and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There is also speculation about the Department of Energy and the Council on Environmental Quality.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has announced that he will be coming home to Colorado to devote more time to family matters. The Department of the Interior is an incredibly important Cabinet position when it comes to shaping environmental policy and action.

Interior comprises nine technical bureaus, including Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, National Park Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It works on land and on the ocean, and is responsible for regulating activities from offshore wind energy to oil drilling to public lands resource development and protection. Possible appointments to Interior include a favorite of environmentalists – and someone I’d love to see in the position, Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva- but it’s more likely the current Deputy Secretary David Hayes will be nominated.

President Obama has already nominated a new Secretary of State to replace Hillary Clinton, who is stepping down. Long-time Massachusetts Senator John Kerry will be taking over, which could be good news for the climate. One of Kerry’s signature issues has been climate change and, as Secretary of State, he has already said he would consider it one of the most important global issues and one on which the United States must engage.

NOAA is housed in the Commerce Department, so the NOAA Administrator is actually an Undersecretary of Commerce.  NOAA is a major player on environmental matters, with responsibilities for weather and satellites, fisheries, research, and ocean issues.

Jane Lubchenco, NOAA

Jane Lubchenco, NOAA

NOAA works on issues near to my heart, including smart ocean use planning, marine debris, fisheries, and ocean acidification. Outgoing Administrator Jane Lubchenco made great strides in these areas. As Ocean Conservancy’s Interim President Janis Searles Jones said of her, “”Ever a teacher, Dr. Lubchenco has been one of the most steadfast champions of science and the need for scientists to become solutions-oriented at a time when restoring scientific integrity is an urgent priority for the country. Under her leadership, NOAA renewed its focus on key ocean issues like ending overfishing, reducing marine debris, protecting the Arctic and tackling climate change and ocean acidification.”

The next administrator – and it remains unclear who that might be – will have a full plate dealing with such issues.

Times of change are also times of opportunity. I’d like to thank Clinton, Lubchenco, and Salazar for their work (and to welcome Ken back home to Colorado), and am hopeful that Kerry’s appointment is a sign of things to come:elevating environmental issues higher on Obama’s agenda in his second term.

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