California Clean Air Chief Mary Nichols on shortlist to head EPA under Biden administration

California Clean Air Chief Mary Nichols on shortlist to head EPA under Biden’s administration

Following years of unpleasant and unsatisfying performance, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to resume its actual task of protecting the deteriorating environment under the Joe Biden-led administration.
While Biden’s inauguration ceremony is yet to take place (on January 20), and his selection for the position of EPA chief hadn’t been announced yet, the name of Mary Nichols, chief of California’s Clean Air Resources Board (CARB), is reportedly on the short list. After being originally appointed to serve on CARB in 1975 by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, she had stints at the Natural Resources Defense Council and the EPA’s Office of Air & Radiation. In 2007, she was elevated to the position of CARB’s chairperson by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Working as chief of CARB, she made hard efforts to put new stricter regulations in place. The regulations not only affected California but also many other CARB states. It may be noted here that around a dozen states, which represent nearly a third of the United States’ auto industry, automatically adopt the Golden State’s clean air regulations.

As California passed its own Clean Air Act (CAA) before the federal government did, the state is allowed to set and follow its own rules as long as they remain stricter than federal rules. Other states are also allowed to do the same but only as long as they adopt and follow California’s rules without any amendment.

Under President Barack Obama’s administration, when Biden served as the vice president of the United States, many efforts were made to bring harmony between CARB and the US EPA in terms of environment protection rules and to set up a single national standard for ensuring higher fuel economy. It was not a small feat to get all parties onboard to set up a single national standard for protecting environment, but it was done successfully and Nicolas played a key role in that.

However, during the Trump-administration, under the guidance of oil advocate Scott Pruitt and coal advocates Andrew Wheeler, the EPA was forced to roll back almost all of those fuel economy standards. Nevertheless, Nichols and her team always stood firm against those attacks, and vowed to protect the environment. During a shift from conventional vehicles to EVs, her role will be even bigger.

Over those years, Nicolas has earned a reputation as a fair fighter for clean air, particularly in California. She has already announced plans to retire at the end of 2020. But such a tireless fighter for clean air and environment protection will most probably not be able to resist Biden’s potential calling to help protect the environment at the highest level.