AUWCL Alumni Named to Top Environmental Policy Positions in New Administration

Jan. 21, 2021

President Joe Biden has named two American University Washington College of Law alumni to fill top environmental policy positions in his new administration. With nominations coming shortly before the January 20 inauguration, Biden named Elizabeth Klein ’06 Deputy Secretary of the Interior and Melanie Nakagawa ’05 Senior Director for Climate and Energy for the White House National Security Council (NSC).

Elizabeth Klein ’06 – Deputy Secretary of the Interior

Elizabeth Klein ’06
Elizabeth Klein ’06

On Monday, Jan. 18, President-elect Biden announced a number of additional administration posts, naming five women as deputy secretaries. Among the new nominees was Elizabeth Klein ’06, who was named Deputy Secretary of the Interior.

Klein is an experienced leader in clean energy, climate change, and environmental law and policy. Most recently, she was deputy director of the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law, which supports state attorneys general in defending and promoting clean energy, climate, and environmental laws and policies.

Klein served at the Department of the Interior during both the Clinton and Obama administrations, including as Interior’s associate deputy secretary as well as principal deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Policy, Management and Budget.  She was previously an attorney at Latham & Watkins specializing in energy and environmental law issues and served as director of communications and government relations for the National Park Foundation prior to becoming an attorney.

At AUWCL, Klein was president of the Environmental Law Society and senior articles editor of the Sustainable Development Law & Policy brief.

Washington Post: “Biden, filling out his government, to name five women as deputy secretaries”

Melanie Nakagawa ’05 – Senior Director for Climate and Energy

Melanie Nakagawa ’05
Melanie Nakagawa ’05

On Jan. 8, President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris announced additional members of the White House National Security Council (NSC). The NSC’s primary role is to advise and assist the President on national security and foreign policies, and to coordinate those policies across government agencies.

Nakagawa served on the Biden-Harris Transition team focused on climate change and energy. She was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Transformation at the U.S. State Department during the Obama administration and served as a strategic advisor on climate change to Secretary of State John Kerry, who President-elect Biden recently appointed as his presidential envoy for climate.

Most recently, Nakagawa was director of climate strategy at Princeville Capital, leading their climate and sustainability investment strategy to back technology-enabled companies delivering transformative solutions to climate change. Earlier in her career, she was the senior energy and environment counsel for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Nakagawa combined her JD from American University Washington College of Law with an MA in International Affairs from American University’s School of International Service (Read about our JD/MA Program).

Find out more about Nakagawa’s work to discover climate safe energy solutions in the Fall 2018 edition of The Advocate

To learn more about opportunities to champion the latest issues in environmental law and policy at AUWCL, visit our Program on Environmental and Energy Law website.