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Politics is big in these parts, and we’ve got it covered. John Arthur Hutchison and other staff writers will offer their inside information on the events, big news and little moments of the local political scene in Lake, Geauga and eastern Cuyahoga counties.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Heavy air in NE Ohio over Obama appointment?

In the midst of naming his choices for Secretary of State, Attorney General, Secretary of Education and other high-profile Cabinet-level positions, President-elect Barack Obama made one appointment that might have flown a little under the radar.

While announcing his “Green Dream Team” to guide his administration’s energy policy, Obama appointed Carol M. Browner as his Energy Coordinator, or as some are calling it, his “Energy Czar.”

It’s been reported that Browner will coordinate between various federal agencies that play a role in energy policy, though outside of that, it seems her role is so far undefined in this newly created position.

However, the role she played as leader of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration is much clearer and might have some local motorists gripping their steering wheels a little tighter.

While in charge at the EPA, Browner toughened the country’s air-quality standards by updating standards for particulate matter and ozone, which eventually led to every Northeast Ohioan’s favorite vehicle emissions testing program: E-check.

There are certainly strong opinions on each side of the pro-environment/anti-regulation argument, but it seems safe to say that E-check has been one of Ohio’s least popular government institutions since its 1996 inception in Lake, Geauga, Cuyahoga, Lorain, Medina, Portage and Summit counties.

Are we to expect more such regulations from Browner and the Obama administration? At this point, the answer to that is still, well, up in the air.

-- Michael C. Butz


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