Green group hires Interior official to be president

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has chosen Rhea Suh, a top official at the Interior Department, to be its new president starting next year.

NRDC’s president since 2006, Frances Beinecke, will retire from the major environmental organization, it said Wednesday.

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“I’m honored to join NRDC,” Suh said in a statement. “We face formidable challenges to the health and future of our planet, and the bedrock environmental laws that protect the air we breathe and the water we drink are under constant attack.”

When she takes over in January, Suh will become only the third president in the group’s 44-year history. NRDC is one of the most prolific advocacy groups in the environmental realm, and has played a key role in President Obama’s efforts to fight climate change.

Suh has been Interior’s assistant secretary for policy, management and budget since 2009. She oversees the department’s $12 billion budget, human resources for its 70,000 employees, business and related responsibilities.

As part of her responsibilities, Suh played a leading role in reforming the Interior Department’s oversight of offshore oil and gas drilling following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Minerals Management Service was broken into two agencies, with one dedicated to safety.

Suh was appointed to be assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, but was never confirmed by the Senate. After a great deal of controversy over previous positions in environmental advocacy, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted earlier this year along party lines to send her nomination to the full Senate, which never took it up.

“Rhea has the tenacity and talent to help our movement win on climate change,” Beinecke said of her successor in a statement.

“She understands that this is the greatest environmental, health and economic threat of our time, and she understands that this is the moment we can turn the tide,” she said. “She will be ferocious in this fight, and I can’t wait to watch her take this on.”