Podesta defends Obama's climate agenda

A top adviser to President Obama chastised environmental groups for criticizing the president’s energy policy, arguing in a letter that Obama “has been leading the transition” to low-carbon energy solutions.

John Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton who rejoined the White House at the beginning of the year, wrote in a two-page memo obtained by the Washington Post that the president “believes it is imperative that we act to address the threat of climate change.

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He goes on to detail steps the Obama Administration took toward that goal, including new fuel efficiency rules, regulations on power plants, and support for renewable energy.

Podesta’s defense came in response to a letter sent by top environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund earlier this week. In the letter, the groups argue that the administration should apply a strict climate test “to all decisions regarding new fossil fuel development.”

“We believe that continued reliance on an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy would be fundamentally at odds with your goal of cutting carbon pollution and would undermine our nation’s capacity to respond to the threat of climate disruption,” the environmentalists said. “With record-high atmospheric carbon concentrations and the rising threat of extreme heat, drought, wildfires and super storms, America’s energy policies must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, not simply reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

But Podesta pointed to the president’s record on energy issues.

“Given this context, I was surprised that you chose to send” a letter questioning the president’s “all of the above” energy strategy, Podesta writes.

"The President has been leading the transition, to low-carbon energy sources, and understands the need to consider a balanced approach to all forms of energy development, including oil and gas production," Podesta wrote. "With the respect to meeting the threats posed by a rapidly-changing climate, implementation of the Climate Action Plan must and will remain the focus of our efforts."

Podesta was recruited to join the West Wing from the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank he helped found. While leading CAP, Podesta was a top advocate for efforts to address climate change. White House officials have said energy and environmental issues will be a large part of his portfolio within the administration.