December 2, 2020


The California Air Quality Guru Who Taught Business to Love the Environment: Praised by Republicans and Democrats, Mary Nichols is a contender for head of the EPA in a Biden administration (DEBRA KAHN, 12/02/2020, Politico)

Nichols' ability to convince wary policymakers and industry executives that the environment and economy are not at odds lies at the heart of her success in forging a bipartisan consensus on climate change action in California. And it may be the reason that Nichols, who is termed out as chair of the state air pollution agency at the end of the year, tops the list of Joe Biden's potential picks to head the Environmental Protection Agency, which will face much the same challenge if the new administration has any hope of meeting international goals to rein in greenhouse emissions.

Under Biden, the EPA will need to reverse the Trump administration's rollbacks of climate policies and go even further: If the United States is to have any chance of meeting its own climate targets, or persuading other countries to meet theirs, it will need to forge a stable consensus on climate action that draws enough Republican support to withstand changes in presidential administrations. Getting businesses on board and convincing them that environmental progress doesn't come at the expense of economic gains -- during a deep recession and pandemic-induced economic anxiety, no less -- will be key.

"Although there certainly have been things we have not agreed upon over the years, there have been many we have," Western States Petroleum Association President Catherine Reheis-Boyd said in an email. "Mary has always been willing to have an open and honest dialogue and find common ground to address the challenges facing California."

She's not a slam-dunk for the job. In many ways, Nichols has been seen during the Trump administration as the unofficial leader of the states' pro-climate resistance -- a role that may trigger some Republican opposition in the Senate, which would need to confirm her in the position.

But even if she doesn't wind up heading the EPA, whoever does is likely to use her playbook going forward as the incoming Biden administration races to make up time lost during the Trump years.

"The way I have operated and the way I've been successful is because I've been able to bring in the affected stakeholders and also maintain the momentum of the agencies themselves," Nichols said.

Posted by at December 2, 2020 12:00 AM