As chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the openly gay New York native advises the president, ensuring the government adheres to National Environmental Policy Act standards. She is also charged with laying the long-term foundations for a renewable energy economy. "The president clearly realizes how closely linked energy, environment, and climate change are," Sutley told The Advocate last year. "The solution of a climate change problem is to look at our energy economy. In the long run, we have a huge opportunity to create new energies and new jobs."
Sutley, 48, holds a B.A. from Cornell and an M.A. in public policy from Harvard, and has more than a decade of experience in environmental policy in California, where she was a deputy mayor for energy and environment in Los Angeles. She had been a member of Hillary Clinton's California Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Steering Committee leading up to the last presidential election, and she was the first openly gay appointee to the Obama administration, one month prior to the president's inauguration. When he announced her appointment, president-elect Obama vowed to "move beyond our oil addiction and create a new hybrid economy," signaling a break from the previous administration's tendency to overlook science in favor of ties with the energy industry.
"Nancy is one of those people who becomes the MVP wherever she goes," said Felicia Marcus of the Natural Resources Defense Council, who worked with Sutley at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration. "She's a calm head in a crisis."