Freeman Accepts Post with Obama

HLS Professor will serve as counselor for energy and climate change

Law School Professor Jody Freeman will leave Harvard to serve as a top environmental policy aide at the White House, the latest in a string of high-profile departures from the school’s faculty.

Freeman, one of the nation’s top experts on environmental policy and regulation, has been named the counselor for energy and climate change in the White House where she will serve as senior advisor to energy and climate czar Carol M. Browner.

Joining an office charged with coordinating the efforts of the many government agencies involved in environmental policy and regulation, Freeman said her primary responsibilities will involve managing the efforts to combat climate change at multiple organizations and agencies with frequently overlapping jurisdictions.

“Our team is working together, under Carol Browner, to coordinate all of the energy related legislation and policy, meaning we play a coordinating role that has a responsibility for climate and energy related matters,” Freeman said.

Freeman will be closely involved in managing both environmental regulation and legislative initiatives in a broad effort to revamp federal climate change policy, she said.

Freeman’s office has already begun work on reforming environmental policy by including proposals in the pending stimulus package that would begin to fulfill President Barack Obama’s campaign promises about fighting climate change.

But in recent months, environmental activists have begun to worry that as the economy continues to deteriorate, action on climate change will become a secondary concern.

Freeman acknowledged that although the White House’s primary focus is on the economy, implementing Obama’s campaign promises on fighting climate change and achieving energy independence remain a priority down the road for the administration.

“President [Obama] has reiterated that his priorities are still his priorities,” Freeman said. “The stimulus is crucial, but he’ll then move quickly on to other issues.”

Colleagues at the Law School praised Freeman’s scholarship on environmental law and said that her addition to the faculty had solidified the school’s environmental law curriculum.

“She is someone who in her scholarship digs into things in all of their detail,” Law School Professor Richard H. Fallon said. “She is not a purely legal analyst but is interested in all the policy dimensions of environmental law.”

Freeman, the founding director of the Law School’s environmental law program and one of Dean Elena Kagan’s prominent hires, is another major loss among the ranks of the school’s top professors.

Freeman is the twelfth Harvard professor and fourth Law School professor to depart academia for the Obama administration.

—Staff writer Elias J. Groll can be reached at