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White House names Mike Boots as interim environmental adviser

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Thursday named Mike Boots, currently chief of staff of its Council on Environmental Quality, as the interim chair of the council, which advises the president on environmental issues.

Boots will step into the role on February 18, after current chair Nancy Sutley leaves her job, which she has held since early in President Barack Obama's first term.

Boots has been an "integral part of every major environmental decision of the Administration, often serving as a key liaison between agencies and White House senior staff," said Taryn Tuss, spokeswoman for the CEQ.

The CEQ does not have direct input into the decision making process for approving the controversial Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, but if agencies disagree over the environmental impact of the project the conflict can be referred to the council.

Tuss said Boots was instrumental in developing Obama's Climate Action Plan, a strategy he launched in June that focuses on executive actions the administration can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Boots also played a key role in developing the country's first comprehensive National Ocean Policy.

Sutley's departure followed that of Heather Zichal, Obama's top climate policy adviser, who left the White House in November. Zichal's deputy, Dan Utech, has now filled that role.

Sutley had been part of a team that helped Obama craft new fuel efficiency standards and new standards for carbon pollution from power plants, the White House said.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Nick Zieminski)