In an exclusive interview with Grist, Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, says coal isn’t going away anytime soon.  She also says the administration can’t promise a slowdown in mountaintop-removal mining.  Here are highlights in video and text. (For more, read the full Q & A.)

On coal:

[C]learly coal is a part of our energy mix now and it’s likely to be so in the future. …

I think there is hope for technology that will help to reduce both the environmental impacts of mining coal and producing electricity with coal. … [E]ven if we were to stop using coal tomorrow, it’s used around the world and we have to deal with its environmental impacts. So investing in the technology … is very important not only for our country and our economy but really for the entire world.

On mountaintop-removal mining:

I think everybody you’ll talk to acknowledges that there are serious environmental impacts associated with mountaintop mining, and we have to address them going forward, and we have to look at what we can do under our existing authority to strengthen the oversight of these projects and to see that we’re using those authorities fully to try to address the environmental impacts of mountaintop mining. … [D]oes it mean fewer projects? I don’t know the answer to that. But it will mean that we will deal with the environmental impacts of those projects.

On green jobs:

One of the important things that the [economic] recovery act does is provide very significant funding for green job training. … The Department of Labor is working very hard to get that money out the door to provide a platform for people to be trained for these new green jobs.

On an environmental movement that includes everyone:

People care about the environment they experience, as they experience it. People care very much about the environment in their communities, they care about the health of their families and their community, they care about the places that they live. …

[W]e’ll make sure that as we move forward on this clean energy economy, that it really does touch all parts of our economy and all parts of our country.

On the hardest part of her job:

[H]aving spent the last 13 years in California and coming back here, the weather really stinks, so sometimes I get up in the morning and I think, why did I leave California?

On the most fun part of her job:

The most fun … is the people you get to work with. It’s an incredible group of people, and we’re working for someone who’s a very inspiring leader, who cares about these issues. And I think we feel the sense of possibility, the hope that’s out there in this country that we can move our country into a better place, and that this clean energy economy is really an integral part of a vision for the future.

Want more? Read the full Q & A.

Nancy Sutley.Photo illustration by Tom Twigg / GristNancy Sutley is sitting in the catbird seat as America’s environmental landscape begins to radically shift under the Obama administration. As chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, she is President Obama’s chief environmental adviser, coordinating activities across more than half a dozen federal agencies on issues ranging from climate change to water quality to land conservation.

Sutley, a Latina and the first high-level openly gay official to join the Obama administration, served from 2005 to 2009 as deputy mayor for energy and the environment in Los Angeles. There she helped quadruple renewable energy production, cut greenhouse gas emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels, and push through a program to cut air pollution from cargo ships at the region’s enormous ports. An outspoken advocate of environmental justice, Sutley also served at EPA during the Clinton administration, where she worked on clean-air protections.

For all her achievements in the environmental realm, Sutley is no idealist. She promotes the development of cleaner coal technology, reasoning that “clearly coal is a part of our energy mix now and it’s likely to be so in the future.”