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Carol Browner

In office
January 22, 2009 – Present
President Barack Obama
Deputy Heather Zichal

8th Administrator of the
Environmental Protection Agency
In office
1993 – 2001
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by William K. Reilly
Succeeded by Christine Todd Whitman

Born December 16, 1955 (1955-12-16) (age 54)
Miami, Florida
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Michael Podhorzer (div.)
Thomas Downey
Alma mater University of Florida B.A.
University of Florida College of Law J.D.
Profession Lawyer

Carol Martha Browner (born December 16, 1955) is an American lawyer, environmentalist, and businesswoman, who is Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy in the Obama Administration. Browner previously served as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton Administration.

Browner grew up in Florida and graduated from the University of Florida and the University of Florida College of Law. After working for the Florida House of Representatives, she was employed by Citizen Action in Washington, D.C. She became a legislative assistant for Senators Lawton Chiles and Al Gore. Browner then headed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from 1991 to 1993.

She was the longest-serving administrator in the history of the EPA, staying through both terms of the Clinton presidency. Following that, she became a founding member of the Albright Group and Albright Capital Management during the 2000s. She also served on a number of boards of directors and committees dealing with environmental issues. She assumed her new post in the Obama administration in January 2009.


Early life and education

Born in Miami, Florida,[1] Browner is the daughter of Isabella Harty-Hugues and Michael Browner, both of whom were professors at Miami Dade Community College, in social science and English respectively.[2] She has two younger sisters.[2] Browner grew up in South Miami,[2] and her hiking in the nearby Everglades – only a bicycle ride away from her house[3] – gave her a close connection to the natural world:[2][4] "I was very shaped by growing up in that kind of environment where nature was right there."[5]

Browner received her B.A. degree from the University of Florida in 1977, majoring in English.[4][6] She then graduated from the University of Florida College of Law with a J.D. degree in 1979.[7]

Early career

In 1980 and 1981, she worked as General Counsel for the Florida House of Representatives Committee on Government Operations. There she helped revise Florida's Conservation and Recreational Lands Program.[8] In 1983, she moved to Washington, D.C. and worked as associate director for the national Citizen Action group, a grassroots lobbying organization that was active in environmental issues.[3][6]

Browner met Michael Podhorzer, a specialist in health-care issues at Citizen Action,[2] in 1983.[9] They married in 1987[9] and lived in Takoma Park, Maryland.[10] They have a son, Zachary, born in 1987.[2][6]

Between 1986 and 1988, Browner served as chief legislative assistant to Senator Lawton Chiles from Florida.[1] There she worked on a complex negotiation to expand Florida's Big Cypress National Preserve,[3][8] as well as a ban on offshore drilling near the Florida Keys.[11] During 1989 she served as a legal counsel for the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.[11] She was not averse to in-field investigation, once diving in coastal waters to do research while pregnant.[3]

Then Browner worked as Legislative Director for Senator Al Gore from 1988 to 1991,[1] and became known as a Gore protegé.[12][13] In this role she helped prepare amendments to the Clean Air Act[11] and managed Gore's legislative staff.[8]

As Secretary of Environmental Regulation,[2] Browner headed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from 1991 to 1993,[1] while living in Tallahassee.[8] It was the nation's third-largest such state agency, with 1,500 employees and a budget of some $650 million.[12] There she believed that economic development and environmental protection did not have to be in conflict with each other.[2] She revitalized a demoralized department and turned it into one of the most active in Florida's government.[2] She shortened the amount of time it took the department to review development permits for wetlands-affected areas and for manufacturing plants; in doing so, she annoyed some environmentalists who thought that the streamlined procedures diminished public review.[2] She pushed for the halting of construction of new hazardous waste plants and municipal waste incinerators, on the grounds that health and environment consequences were insufficiently known.[12] She brokered a deal with Walt Disney World that would allow them to build on wetlands they owned in exchange for $40 million worth of restoration work by Disney to endangered wetlands nearby.[11] She pleased environmentalists by persuading now-Governor Chiles to negotiate a settlement to a federal lawsuit regarding damage to Everglades National Park and forcing the Florida sugar industry to bear much of the $1 billion cost.[2] The head of Florida's largest business trade association described dealing with Browner as follows: "She kicks the door open, throws in a hand grenade, and then walks in to shoot who's left. She really doesn't like to compromise. [But she] has done a pretty good job down here. People have more complaints with the way she does it than what she does."[14]

EPA Administrator

After the 1992 presidential election, Browner served as transition director for Vice President-elect Gore.[15] President-elect Bill Clinton announced her as his choice for Environmental Protection Agency head on December 11, 1992.[12] The selection of Browner, who was described by The Washington Post as having "the mind and training of an attorney-legislator but the soul of an activist," was seen as an indication that Gore's ardent environmentalism had won out over Clinton's more pro-business mindset.[14] During her confirmation hearings before the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works she allayed fears that she would be tied to Gore and came across as pragmatic.[16] She was confirmed by the unanimous consent of the United States Senate on January 21, 1993.[17]

She and Podhorzer returned to Takoma Park, Maryland, and he continued to work at Citizen Action.[10] Her long-term goal was "to leave the world a slightly better place," and she practiced various environmentally beneficial practices at home.[9] She avoided the Nannygate problems of some of Clinton's other early female nominees by having never used a nanny.[9] She continued to lead an active outdoor life, via bicycling, skiing, and jogging.[9]

At the EPA, Browner supervised some 17,000 employees and a $7 billion budget.[9] Early in her administration, she angered some EPA employees by publicly stating that the organization lacked management accountability and discipline and was wasting taxpayer money.[16] Browner found criticism from both sides of issues,[9] and battled many environmentalists who objected to her support for repeal of the 1958 Delaney clause regarding permissible levels of carcinogens in foods.[16] Her May 1993 announcement that the EPA was imposing a moratorium on new incinerator and industrial furnace licensing brought support from environmentalists, however.[16] A move by Clinton to elevate the EPA and Browner to Cabinet-level status failed in late 1993 to gain sufficient Congressional support.[18][19] Many of her legislative desires had to take a back seat to the higher-priority 1993 Clinton health care plan.[9]

Carol Browner, c. 1996

When Republicans took control of Congress after the 1994 elections, Browner took the lead for the Clinton Administration in successfully fighting efforts by the Republicans, especially in the House of Representatives, to amend the Clean Water Act. She was able to work in a bipartisan manner, though, with Congressional Republicans in helping craft amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Food Quality Protection Act.

Browner came from Florida with a reputation as someone who could work with the private sector. While at EPA, she expanded the Agency's flexible public-private partnerships as alternatives to traditional regulation through Project XL (designed to find common sense, cost effective solutions to environmental issues at individual facilities) and the Common Sense Initiative (targeted at efforts involving entire industry sectors).

In March 1995, Browner and the EPA were charged by the House Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs with violating the federal Anti-Lobbying Act (18 U.S. Code § 1913) by faxing unsolicited material opposing the Republican-sponsored regulatory reform package to various corporations and public-interest groups.[20][21] Browner denied the accusation, saying the charge was an attempt to keep her from debating a possible rollback of health and environmental protections.[22]

As EPA Administrator, Browner started the Agency's successful brownfields program. The program helped facilitate cleanups of contaminated facilities, especially in urban areas, and leveraged more than $1 billion in public and private funds for cleanups.

During Browner's tenure, there were many reports from African American employees of racism directed at them from a network of "good old boys" who dominated the agency's middle management layers.[23] The most known of these involved policy specialist Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, who in 1997 filed suit against the agency; in 2000 the EPA was found guilty of discrimination against her and she was awarded $300,000.[23][24] Coleman-Adebayo said that Browner allowed the problems to persist rather than trying to clean them up.[23] In an October 2000 Congressional hearing on the matter,[25] Browner emphasized that minorities had tripled in the agency's senior ranks during her time as administrator, but was unable to explain why the culprits in Coleman-Adebayo's case had not been dismissed and in some cases had been promoted.[23] Congressional dissatisfaction with the EPA situation and its treatment of Coleman-Adebayo led to passage of the No-FEAR Act in 2002, which discourages federal managers and supervisors from engaging in unlawful discrimination and retaliation.[24]

Browner pushed through stringent air quality rules despite cost concerns within the administration and strong objections from some industry groups.[13] The National Ambient Air Quality Standards was crucial environmental legislation for the Clinton administration. With Gore as her most important ally, the legislation survived both Congressional debate and court reviews.[13] Browner began efforts to deal with global warming, giving the EPA authority to regulate carbon emissions causing climate change, although the EPA under the George W. Bush administration chose not to use that authority.[13] Several other of her policies were reversed under Bush as well.[18]

In the final days of the Clinton Administration, D.C. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth instructed the EPA to preserve all documents possibly relevant to a Freedom of Information Act request regarding last-minute EPA regulation issuances.[26] In 2003, Lamberth found the EPA in contempt for not having done so in regard to Browner's files, but did not find Browner or other officials in contempt.[26] Browner had said that she had not been aware of the court order and that the computer material she had removed was not work-related.[26]

During her EPA tenure, Browner became unpopular with a number of industry groups, especially in the utilities and heavy manufacturing areas, as well as with conservatives in Congress, who thought businesses were stifled by her policies.[13][27][18] She also battled with Clinton's Treasury Department at times, and was opposite direction with Clinton himself, who tended to give priority to economic growth over environmental considerations.[27] Nonetheless, Browner was the longest-serving administrator in the history of the agency, staying through both terms of the Clinton presidency.[28]

Business career

Browner testifying before Congress in 2007

After the Clinton Administration, Browner became a founding member of the Albright Group, a "global strategy group" headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.[29] As a Principal in that firm, Browner assists businesses and other organizations with the challenges of operating internationally, including the challenges of complying with environmental regulations and climate change. Coca-Cola and Merck have been among the clients for such international assistance.[13] She also became a founding member and principal of Albright Capital Management, an investment advisory company.[1][29] During 2002, she taught at the study abroad program of her alma mater, now named the Fredric G. Levin College of Law, and she had maintained other ties to it.[30]

Browner is now married to former Congressman Thomas Downey. The marriage, his second, her third,[31][32] took place on June 21, 2007 in Riverhead, New York.[29] Downey heads a lobbying firm that includes clients involved in energy policy.[4] In 2006 she and Downey collaborated on behalf of Dubai Ports World, but were unable to convince Senator Charles Schumer to their view during the Dubai Ports World controversy.[33]

Browner joined the board of the National Audubon Society in 2001 and became chair in 2003;[34] her term expired in 2008.[35] She also joined the board of the Alliance for Climate Protection, an organization founded by Gore in 2006.[29] In 2008 she joined the board of APX, Inc., which specializes in technology infrastructure for the environmental commodities markets[36], including those for carbon offsets and the CDM Gold Standard.[37] She was also on the boards of the Center for American Progress, the Alliance for Climate Protection, and the League of Conservation Voters.[36] She left all of these boards in late 2008 when she was named to serve in the Obama administration.[38] Until summer 2008 she was a member of Socialist International's Commission for a Sustainable World Society,[39][38][40] although the commission's web site still had her listed as a member in January 2009.[41]

Her 2008 income was between $1 million and $5 million from lobbying firm Downey McGrath Group, where her husband is a principal.[42] She also reported $450,000 in "member distribution" income, plus retirement and other benefits from The Albright Group.[42]

Browner retained a political voice during her business career, describing the George W. Bush administration as "the worst environmental administration ever".[7] She also stated that global warming is "the greatest challenge ever faced".[13] During the 2008 presidential election, she was a strong supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton's bid for the Democratic nomination.[7] After Clinton lost public favor and eventually her bid, Browner campaigned for Barack Obama in several battleground states and in League of Conservation Voters events.[7]

Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy

Browner speaking after Barack Obama announced her appointment as an advisor, December 15, 2008

On November 5, 2008, Browner was named to the advisory board of the Obama-Biden Transition Project.[43]

On December 15, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama named Browner to the position of Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.[44] Officially known as the Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy,[45][30] she acts as a coordinator for environmental, energy, climate, transport and related matters for the federal government.[28] Her position is sometimes informally described as the "Energy Czar" or the "Climate Czar".[4][46][27] It did not require Senate confirmation.[38] Her participation on the Commission for a Sustainable World Society drew criticism from some Republican members of Congress,[40] but the Obama transition team said there was nothing wrong with it.[38] In any case, her power and influence relies primarily on persuasion: "I don't have any independent policymaking authority. It's not like when I was at EPA and I could depend on regulation."[27]

Browner's deputy assistant is Heather Zichal,[47] a former legislative director for Senator John Kerry.[48]

The early months of the Obama administration found her working well with the Cabinet members.[27] She was a key negotiator between the administration and automakers in formulating the new United States emission standards in May 2009,[49][45] and also was a member of the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry that bailed out American automakers. She has been a central player in negotiation with Congress of the United States Carbon Cap and Trade Program, seemingly moreso than U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu,[27][49] and continued to push for its importance despite the Obama health care plan being the top legislative priority overall.[50] By September 2009, Republican members of Congress expressed concern that her access to the president has usurped power from other agencies.[49] She also became a target of fervent anti-"czar" radio and television commentator Glenn Beck following the Van Jones resignation.[46] In October 2009, Browner conceded that congressional passage of the cap-and-trade legislation before end of year was unlikely, and feared its absence would harm prospects for meaningful international agreement at the Copenhagen United Nations Climate Change Conference in December.[51] By the next month, she moderated her concern, but expressed opposition to any congressional "slicing and dicing" that would separate energy and climate concerns.[52]

Awards and honors

In April 1997, Browner received the Outstanding Mother of the Year Award from the National Mother's Day Committee "for her dedication to providing 'children with a safer, healthier world.'" [4][53] Browner also has received Glamour magazine's Woman of the Year Award, the South Florida Chapter of the Audubon Society's Guy M. Bradley Lifetime Achievement Award, the Lifetime Environmental Achievement Award from the New York State Bar Association.[6], and Vice President Al Gore's Hammer Award for helping to make government cost less and work better[54]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Biographical Information on Carol Browner". Associated Press for The New York Times. December 15, 2008.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Schenider, Keith (December 17, 1992). "New Breed of Ecologist to Lead E.P.A.". The New York Times.  
  3. ^ a b c d Moritz, Charles (ed.) (1994). Current Biography Yearbook 1994. New York: H. W. Wilson Company.   p. 76.
  4. ^ a b c d e Romero, Frances. "Energy Czar: Carol Browner". Time.,28804,1863062_1863058_1866567,00.html. Retrieved December 16, 2008.  
  5. ^ Grier, Peter (1993-04-01). "[Interview]". The Christian Science Monitor.  
  6. ^ a b c d "Carol M. Browner: Biography". Environmental Protection Agency Office of Media Relations. February 1999. Retrieved December 16, 2008..  
  7. ^ a b c d Wald, Matthew L. (November 29, 2008.). "Obama's Inner Circle, Members and Maybes: Carol M. Browner". The New York Times.  
  8. ^ a b c d Office of the President-Elect (December 10, 1992). "Appointments made today by President-Elect Bill Clinton". Press release.  
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Iorio, Mary (May 21–23, 1993). "EPA Chief Carol Browner is 'absolutely energetic' about saving energy – even at home". USA Weekend within Rome News-Tribune.,5764027.  
  10. ^ a b Current Biography Yearbook 1994, p. 79.
  11. ^ a b c d Current Biography Yearbook 1994, p. 77.
  12. ^ a b c d Ifill, Gwen (December 12, 1992). "Clinton Widens His Circle, Naming 4 Social Activists". The New York Times.  
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Broder, John M. (December 11, 2008). "Title, but Unclear Power, for a New Climate Czar". The New York Times.  
  14. ^ a b Kenworthy, Tom (1992-12-12). "Activist Ex-Aide to Gore Tapped to Direct EPA". The Washington Post.  
  15. ^ "The Transition: President-Elect's Choices". The New York Times. 1992-11-13.  
  16. ^ a b c d Current Biography Yearbook 1994, p. 78.
  17. ^ Greenhouse, Steven. "14 Major Clinton Nominees Are Confirmed by Senate", New York Times, Jan 23, 1993. Thomas Search, Presidential Nominations: PN76-16-103 January 21, 1993 - Confirmed by the Senate by Unanimous Consent.
  18. ^ a b c Gibson, William (November 20, 2008). "Will Florida’s Carol Browner return to EPA?". South Florida Sun-Sentinel.  
  19. ^ Lee, Gary (November 20, 1993). "House Leaders Defer Vote On Cabinet Rank for EPA;GOP Opposition to Clinton Measure Growing". The Washington Post.  
  20. ^ Price, Joyce. "EPA broke law, panel charges: Bipartisan letter cites 'prohibited grass-roots lobbying'." The Washington Times. March 22, 1995. Page A3. Accessed September 17, 2008 via the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library at the University of California, San Francisco.
  21. ^ Cushman Jr., John H. (March 4, 1995). "E.P.A. Chief Is Accused Of Lobbying". The New York Times.  
  22. ^ Cushman Jr., John H. (March 5, 1995). "Chief of E.P.A. Says She Didn't Illegally Lobby". The New York Times.  
  23. ^ a b c d White, Jack (2001-02-23). "How the EPA Was Made to Clean Up Its Own Stain — Racism". Time.,8599,100423,00.html.  
  24. ^ a b Fears, Darryl (2006-07-10). "Coming Soon: A Tale of Whistle-Blowing at the EPA". The Washington Post.  
  25. ^ "106th Congress (1999 - 2000): House Committee Meetings By Date: Intolerance at EPA". U.S. Congressional Bibliographies. 2000-10-04. Retrieved 2008-12-19.  
  26. ^ a b c "EPA held in contempt over documents". Associated Press. Deseret News. July 25, 2003.  
  27. ^ a b c d e f Hirsh, Michael (April 4, 2009). "The Lioness In Spring". Newsweek.  
  28. ^ a b Camen, Al (December 9, 2008). "Browner to Take White House Energy and Environment Job". The Washington Post.  
  29. ^ a b c d "Carol Browner and Thomas Downey". The New York Times. June 24, 2007.  
  30. ^ a b Chun, Diane (Spring 2009). "First a Gator now the leader of the president's Green Team". Gainesville Magazine.  
  31. ^ J. Jioni Palmer (January 8, 2007). "Downey, Browner to Marry". Newsday. Archived from the original on February 19, 2007.  
  32. ^ "Corrections". The Washington Post. January 5, 2007.  
  33. ^ Brad Haynes and T.W. Farnum (December 11, 2008). "Browner's Husband Lobbied on Energy Issues". The Wall Street Journal.  
  34. ^ National Audubon Society (December 15, 2008). "Carol Browner An Outstanding Choice for Obama Administration". Press release.  
  35. ^ "Board of Directors" Audubon Society Retrieved June 15, 2007.
  36. ^ a b Business Wire (March 10, 2008). "Carol Browner Joins APX's Board of Directors". Press release.  
  37. ^ History of APX From Company Web site: 2008 developments.
  38. ^ a b c d Dinan, Stephen (January 12, 2009). "Obama climate czar has socialist ties". The Washington Times.  
  39. ^ "Acting Now on Climate Change". XXIII Congress of the Socialist International, Athens. Socialist International. June 30–July 2, 2008.  
  40. ^ a b "Obama Climate Czarina Was Member of Socialist Group's Environmental Commission". Fox News. January 15, 2009.,2933,479935,00.html.  
  41. ^ "Commission for a Sustainable World Society members as of January 5, 2009". Retrieved September 13, 2009.  
  42. ^ a b John D. McKinnon and F. W. Farnum (April 4, 2009). "Hedge Fund Paid Summers $5.2 Million in Past Year". The Wall Street Journal.  
  43. ^ Sweet, Lynn (November 5, 2008). "Jarrett, Podesta, Rouse to lead Obama transition; Bill Daley co-chair". Chicago Sun-Times.  
  44. ^ Rochelson, Dave (December 16, 2008). "The energy and environment team". Obama-Biden Transition Project.  
  45. ^ a b Tankersley, Jim (May 20, 2009). "Auto emissions deal: behind the scenes". Los Angeles Times.  
  46. ^ a b Burnham, Michael (September 9, 2009). "Embattled Van Jones Quits, but 'Czar' Debates Rage On". Greenwire. The New York Times.  
  47. ^ U.S. Department of the Treasury (February 20, 2009). "Geithner, Summers Convene Official Designees to Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry". Press release.  
  48. ^ U.S. Department of Energy (December 17, 2008). "President-Elect Obama Nominates Dr. Steven Chu as Energy Secretary". Press release.  
  49. ^ a b c King Jr., Neil (September 11, 2009). "Role of White House Czars Sparks Battle". The Wall Street Journal.  
  50. ^ Samuelsohn, Darren (September 9, 2009). "Cap and Trade in Senate Limbo as Obama Makes All-Out Push on Health Care". ClimateWire. The New York Times.  
  51. ^ Goldenberg, Suzanne (October 4, 2009). "US climate bill not likely this year, says Obama adviser". The Guardian.  
  52. ^ Geman, Ben (November 18, 2009). "Browner: U.S. in 'good standing' heading into Copenhagen talks". The Hill.  
  53. ^ Environmental Protection Agency (April 16, 1997). "NTC Administrator Browner to Receive Outstanding Mother of the Year Award". Press release.!OpenDocument.  
  54. ^ "EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner receives Vice President Gore's Hammer award for the Common Sense Initiative". EPA History. December 18, 1998. Retrieved December 2, 2009.  

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
William K. Reilly
Administrator of the EPA
Succeeded by
Christine Todd Whitman


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