White House Taps Insider for Acting Enviro Council Head

US President Barack Obama speaks after touring Mooresville Middle School in Mooresville, North Carolina, on June 6, 2013. Obama arrived in North Carolina as part of his Middle Class Jobs & Opportunity Tour.  (National Journal)

Mike Boots, chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, will become acting chairman this month when current Chairwoman Nancy Sutley steps down, the White House announced Thursday.

A CEQ spokeswoman strongly praised Boots's work, but did not say whether he would be formally nominated to lead the council. He'll become acting head on Feb. 18.

CEQ Communications Director Taryn Tuss said Boots, an ocean-conservation and Clinton administration veteran, has been an "integral part" of major environmental decisions by the admnistration and has been a "key liaison between agencies and White House senior staff."

"He helped develop the President's Climate Action Plan and is a strong force behind ensuring agencies are on track to implement it. He has coordinated the administration's work to establish new national monuments that permanently protect unique American sites, as well as to restore the Gulf Coast region's ecosystem following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill," Tuss said. Boots has also worked on federal ocean policy and making the federal government more energy efficient, Tuss said.

Early in the Obama administration Boots was an associate director at CEQ, managing its portfolio on natural-resource topics. In the private sector he was a senior official with the ocean-conservation group SeaWeb.

Boots worked at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration and later was a Washington-based adviser to then-California Gov. Gray Davis.

CEQ helps coordinate and craft federal green policies and oversees implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act, the 1970 law that requires agencies to analyze how their decisions will affect the environment.

The council had a high profile during the George W. Bush administration, when then-CEQ Chairman James Connaughton was a public face and point person on Bush's environmental policies.

It has had a lower profile in the Obama administration, and other top aides such as former energy and climate czar Carol Browner have wielded considerable power.