The Greenification of the White House

January 2, 2009

What can we expect from the new Obama administration going into the White House?  What will the Obama Presidency mean for businesses trying to become more green?  If it’s any consolation to us, this should be a banner set of years for businesses hoping to Greenify as the Democratic President is expected to put forward numerous proposals that will forward environmental causes such as mitigating global warming, promotion of “green” industries and alternative energy, while cracking down on toxic chemicals in our environment. 

So far, President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Lisa Jackson as his nominee to head the EPA.  The nominee is said to be tough on enforcement of laws and regulation.  Jackson ran New Jersey's state environmental agency before becoming the chief of staff for the governor in the Garden State.  Before that, she was at the EPA for 16 years in Washington, D.C., and New York. Under Obama, she would be part of a three-person team that would oversee environmental policy.

The other two serving with her are Carol Browner, who directed the EPA under the Clinton administration and would oversee climate-change policy out of Obama's White House; and Nancy Sutley, a deputy Los Angeles mayor who would run the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Obama has chosen Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to be his energy secretary, and Rep. Hilda L. Solis, a California Democrat, to become labor secretary, charged with enforcing workplace safety laws, among other duties.

Many Washington insiders are noticing that numerous of these positions are being filled by Californians, giving the state a hefty chunk of influence.  Starting in the 1970s, when it became the first state to establish its own auto emissions standards under the federal Clean Air Act, California has been considered a trendsetter.

After the state banned a class of chemicals, phthalates, from children's products last year, 12 states introduced similar bans.

The California ban on phthalates inspired Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to successfully push for a federal prohibition, which takes effect in February. It is a rarity -- the first time Congress has banned a chemical in decades -- and it faced stiff and well-financed opposition from Exxon Mobil, which makes one of the banned chemicals.

Roger Martella, a former EPA general counsel who is an attorney for many corporations affected by environmental regulation, says the strength of democrats in Congress, along with the new administration coming in could see  an era of significant new government action.

"Whether at the end of the day every policy that California has gets implemented on a national level is a matter for debate," Martella said. "At the same time, we'd be foolish to ignore those stars that are lining up."

Which may mean more inspiration, motivation and legislation to help businesses Greenify as the new administration puts its policies in place.


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