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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The burst of Biden administration staffing picks announced yesterday revealed that the Energy Department (DOE) has newly created roles that reflect what President Biden called campaign priorities.

Driving the news: One new position is "director of energy jobs," which is being filled by Jennifer Jean Kropke. She was previously the first director of workforce and environmental engagement with Local 11 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Another newly created position is "deputy director for energy justice." It's being filled by Shalanda H. Baker, who comes from her job as a Northeastern University law professor. She also co-founded the nonprofit Initiative for Energy Justice.

Why it matters: A pillar of Biden's case for his climate agenda is a fundamentally economic pitch.

  • He's hoping to accelerate job growth in energy-related fields like electric vehicle manufacturing and charging infrastructure, faster deployment of renewables and more.
  • Biden officials also say they'll also focus heavily on environmental justice — addressing the disproportionate pollution burdens often faced by the poor and people of color.

The big picture: They're the latest of several newly created administration positions.

  • The highest level ones, which were announced in December, are John Kerry's gig as special climate envoy and Gina McCarthy, who is leading the new White House climate office. We wrote about her top deputies here.
  • Two more: There's now a senior director for environmental justice at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, a role filled by Cecilia Martinez. And per the White House, associate director for climate, energy, environment and science is a new position within the Office of Management and Budget.

Reality check: Who knows how much all the new bodies will actually translate into tangible outcomes. But they're nonetheless a sign of intent.

What we don't know: The precise outlines and activities of the new DOE roles. DOE spokesman Kevin Liao spoke of the positions in broad terms.

  • "These new positions reflect President Biden’s belief in the job creating potential of bold climate action and the urgent need to act on longstanding environmental injustices in America," he said.
  • Baker's overall views are captured in a WBUR interview posted earlier this week.

Yes, but: Biden's facing immediate criticism that his initial climate policy moves are hurting jobs.

  • Republicans and industry officials and some unions bashed his decision to nix the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
  • Keystone developer TC Energy said it's cutting more than 1,000 construction jobs in coming weeks, Reuters reports.
  • And oil industry groups criticized yesterday's Interior Department move to freeze permitting for oil-and-gas projects on federal lands.

Bonus: Here are the new staffing lists from EPA, DOE, Interior and the Transportation Department (DOT).

One thing that stands out is that lots of Obama-era names are coming back.

  • For instance, DOE chief of staff Tarak Shah was also at the agency under Obama, while EPA chief of staff Dan Utech was an Obama White House energy and climate aide.
  • Another example is Andrew Light, who has a high-level international affairs role at DOE. He was a senior State Department climate aide under Obama.

The intrigue: With a h/t to E&E News, one of the Transportation picks could signal the administration's intent to set much more aggressive fuel economy rules.

  • Steve Cliff, new deputy administrator of DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, comes from the California Air Resources Board, which focuses heavily on transportation-sector emissions.

Go deeper: Biden's plan to upend Trump's environmental legacy

Go deeper

Updated Feb 2, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on corporate America's climate impact

On Tuesday, February 2, Axios' Mike Allen, Ben Geman, and Aja Whitaker-Moore hosted a conversation on corporate America’s climate impact following the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda, featuring Microsoft's Chief Environmental Officer Lucas Joppa and The Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah.

Rajiv Shah discussed increasing global inequities as a result of the pandemic, and how these economic divides can be crossed with respect to energy and climate change policies.

  • On the growing gap between the world's wealthy and poor: "COVID-19 is an accelerant of that [economic] divergence. We're now living through the greatest divergence we've seen since World War II and the living standards of people and inequality and inequity as a result of that."
  • On how corporate America has stepped up their commitment to climate change initiatives: "It is going to take much more than a series of corporate commitments to get to net neutrality by 2050. And in fact, I'm optimistic because I've seen companies since [the beginning of 2020] do more."

Lucas Joppa unpacked climate change commitments within the private sector, and how companies have the potential to collectively create change.

  • On the progress Microsoft has made around reducing carbon emissions: "A year ago we committed that by 2030, we'd reduce our emissions by half or more and remove the rest. Over the past calendar year...if we keep on track, we'll see us meeting or achieving our commitments."
  • On setting an example as a large company and modeling scalable solutions: "It's incumbent upon [Microsoft] to do more, but it's also incumbent that we do more in a way that makes it easier for everybody to follow. We know with carbon reduction and carbon removal there's a lot of market maturation and a lot of other societal scale changes that need to happen [around it]."

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.

McConnell, McCarthy say 2017 tax law is "red line" in infrastructure talks

The top Republicans in the House and Senate told reporters after meeting with President Biden at the White House that "there is a bipartisan desire to get an outcome" on an infrastructure package, but stressed that revisiting the 2017 tax cuts is a "red line."

Why it matters: Wednesday marked the first time that Biden has hosted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at the White House.

McCarthy: "I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy" of Biden's win

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was asked Wednesday whether he was concerned about elevating Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to GOP leadership after she has promoted baseless claims about the election. He responded: "I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election."

Why it matters: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) was ousted as House GOP conference chair earlier Wednesday — in a vote that McCarthy supported — over her continued criticisms of former President Trump and his lies about election fraud.