Washington — When President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors initiative in 2010, he continued the national conservation efforts President Teddy Roosevelt began in 1901.
Nancy Sutley, born in New York to a mother who came to the United States from Argentina, is the person who champions Obama’s conservation agenda.
"Just as we cherish our childhood memories of hiking and sledding, fishing and camping, and just as we enjoy spending time outdoors with our families, we must guard these places and traditions for new generations," said Sutley, the principal environmental policy adviser to the president and chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Sutley pushes scientifically proven conservation efforts. “Our focus is to ensure that there is a strong science and policy basis … to move the nation to greater reliance on clean energy and increase energy security, to combat global warming while growing the green economy, to protect public health and the environment … and to protect and restore our great ecosystems,” she said.
“The link between energy, environment and economy is important,” Sutley said, speaking in Columbia, Missouri, as reported by the online site PoliticMo. “There is an incredible drive for cities to lead.” She supports innovations including light rail transportation, wind and solar power, electric automobiles and recycling.
Sutley’s selection as chair of the Council on Environmental Quality pleased environmentalists. One of her biggest accomplishments in her previous position as Los Angeles deputy mayor was requiring all trucks operating in the Los Angeles port, the the United States' largest seaport, to have clean-burning diesel engines. Her plan also required trucking companies that operate in the port to buy and maintain new, modernized rigs. With her advice, the city approved a grant program to help businesses subsidize the purchase of cleaner trucks.
"The city's approach has changed fundamentally since she got there," said V. John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, an advocacy group in Sacramento, California. "Instead of the port being the advocate for truckers and shippers, it was an advocate for clean air," he told the Los Angeles Times.
“From businesses and educators to state and local governments, communities across America are spearheading the innovations that will help us win the future,” Sutley said.
Inside the White House, Sutley has promoted measures to conserve energy: installing low-flush toilets, for example, and adding sensors that automatically turn off lights in unused areas.
Sutley holds a master's degree in public policy from Harvard University and an undergraduate degree in government from Cornell University. During President Bill Clinton’s administration, she was a senior adviser to the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Sutley has worked with the League of United Latin American Citizens, which bills itself as the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy group in the United States, to bring more Latinos into the U.S. government.
In an interview with the Sierra Club, a U.S. environmental-conservation organization, Sutley said she was encouraged “to see many Latino organizations trying to focus on what this clean energy economy means for Latinos, how it helps in terms of prosperity for this very important sector of American population, and how it helps to address the challenges that Latinos are facing in their communities.”
It is important, she said, “that the Latino community continues to be engaged in having their voices heard.”
The America’s Great Outdoors initiative is run by the Council on Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of Agriculture and the Interior. It combines the conservation efforts of 15 federal agencies. A White House fact sheet discusses the initiative.
Staff writer Jane Morse contributed to this article.