Mike Boots, the acting chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, will leave the administration in March, according to a CEQ spokesperson.
His upcoming departure from CEQ, which helps coordinate federal environmental policy and oversees several climate-change initiatives, is one of two big changes coming among top White House environmental aides.
John Podesta, the Democratic uber-operative who has played a powerful behind-the-scenes role in the White House climate agenda, plans to depart in February.
Boots has been the acting CEQ chairman since February, when former CEQ chief Nancy Sutley left. The White House did not provide details about what's next for Boots, who was never formally nominated to lead the agency.
"He's considering a number of energy- and environment-related options outside the federal government," the CEQ spokesperson said. The White House did not provide any immediate information about whom President Obama may seek to install in the CEQ job.
The White House credited Boots, who previously served as CEQ's chief of staff, with playing a "central role in shepherding many of the administration's most notable environmental accomplishments."
"He has racked up an enormous string of victories just in the year that I have been here," Podesta said in an interview.
White House officials said that Boots had key roles in the recent establishment of several new national monuments, including the huge expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to 490,000 square miles in September.
On climate change, the White House praised his work leading the Task Force on Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience and related initiatives to help state and local governments harden their defenses against climate change.
Boots has also played a central role in helping drive down the federal government's greenhouse-gas emissions by 17 percent since 2008, the White House said.
Podesta joined the White House a little over a year ago and said that in that time, Boots has been a "great partner and a leader" on effort to tackle greenhouse-gas emissions but also "plan for a future where the effects of climate change will have major impacts on communities across the country."
Last month CEQ released a draft plan that spells out how federal agencies will consider climate change when reviewing proposed energy, construction, and other projects under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Podesta said CEQ, under Boots, is helping to ensure that weighing the consequences of climate change is woven into the DNA of the federal government. "That definitely now is built into the analytic fabric of what is going on. I think it will last beyond the Obama administration," Podesta said.
Boots was an associate director at CEQ at the start of the Obama administration, focusing on land and marine conservation. He worked at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration and later was a Washington-based adviser to then-California Gov. Gray Davis.
Boots joined the Obama administration from the ocean conservation group SeaWeb, where he was vice president for sustainable markets.
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