The White House is planning to hire a National Park Service official and public lands expert to take the helm at the Council on Environmental Quality, according to two sources familiar with the administration’s plans.
Christy Goldfuss, who’s now deputy director of congressional and external relations at the Park Service, will soon join CEQ as a senior adviser, according to CEQ spokeswoman Taryn Tuss. She’s expected to ultimately replace acting CEQ Chairman Mike Boots, who’s slated to step down in March after leading the agency for the past year, the two sources outside the White House told Greenwire.
Goldfuss will be central to the administration’s work on climate change — a priority for the remainder of the term, Tuss said today in a statement. She declined to comment on personnel shuffles that may occur when Boots leaves his office. "She will help oversee implementation of the President’s Climate Action Plan and work with other White House partners on new strategies to tackle this global challenge, and will continue to advance the President’s agenda for protecting the lands and waters Americans value."
Goldfuss will be part of a new green leadership team in the White House.
Obama’s top environmental aide, John Podesta, plans to leave the administration next month. His energy portfolio will be taken over by White House budget expert Brian Deese, the White House announced this week (E&E Daily, Jan. 22). Along with Deese and Obama’s special assistant for energy and climate, Dan Utech, Goldfuss would be tasked with pushing through the White House environmental agenda during the administration’s final years.
Goldfuss didn’t respond to requests for comment on the appointment.
It’s unclear whether the administration would officially nominate Goldfuss to the post, which requires Senate approval, or opt to avoid what would likely be a tough confirmation battle by keeping her there in an acting capacity. Several sources have speculated that the White House is unlikely to make a formal CEQ nomination, given the GOP ire toward the administration’s environmental policies.
Prior to joining the Park Service in 2013, Goldfuss was director of the public lands project at the Center for American Progress, the liberal think tank founded by Podesta. Deese, too, is a CAP veteran — he was a senior analyst for economic policy at the think tank before joining the Obama administration. Podesta has likely had a central role in lining up new leadership as he plans his exit from the White House.
Goldfuss paid several visits to the White House last fall, according to the most recently released visitor logs. She met twice for one-on-one meetings with Boots in September, the records show, and attended another September meeting with Podesta along with fellow Park Service employee Theodora Chang.
Before starting at CAP in 2011, Goldfuss worked for the Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. Before that, she was a federal preservation advocate for Environment America and was a television reporter in Nevada and California.
Some people familiar with Goldfuss’ expected appointment have expressed concern over her perceived lack of experience for the job, which requires coordinating the administration’s environmental effort across federal agencies.
Goldfuss and Deese are not "known forces of nature within the community that would be people you’d love to see in that role," said one source familiar with the White House plans.
But Deese has won accolades from many in the green community and from former administration colleagues. And several people who have worked with Goldfuss described her as a seasoned operative who would be a good fit at CEQ.
"Christy Goldfuss combines deep substantive knowledge with political savvy, legislative acumen, communications clarity and a collaborative working style," said Daniel Weiss, senior vice president for campaigns at the League of Conservation Voters, who worked with her at CAP. "She is a great candidate for a senior administration leadership role."
Goldfuss "brings a lot to the equation," said a former Obama administration official who worked with her.
"I think there will be people questioning whether she’s experienced enough for this job or senior enough," that person added. But at this point in the administration, "it’s probably most important that the CEQ chair have good relationships with key players. Christy is a known quantity and she has very strong personal qualities and may well be a very good fit for what needs to happen here in the last two years — which is largely implementing the president’s agenda."
Reporter Phil Taylor contributed.