Biden eyes new EPA picks as Nichols falls from favor: report

Biden eyes new EPA picks as Nichols falls from favor: report
© Courtesy of the California Air Resources Board

The Biden team is hunting for a nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after some groups expressed opposition to a favorite to get the nod, California air regulator Mary NicholsMary NicholsThe Hill's Sustainability Report: After massive Haiti earthquake, thousands await medical care With climate team taking shape, Biden weighs picks for EPA, Interior OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden reportedly selects Granholm as energy secretary | Trump administration narrows protection of habitat for endangered species | Administration rolls back efficiency standards for showerheads, washers and dryers MORE

According to a report from The New York Times, Nichols has fallen out of favor with the transition team following a letter from a coalition of 70 environmental and social justice groups that criticized her for not doing enough to mitigate pollution impacts for low-income communities and communities of color.

The letter, sent earlier this month, said Nichols had a “bleak track record in addressing environmental racism.”


Multiple media outlets have reported a growing list of the potential future EPA administrators, including Michael Regan, currently the head of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, and Richard Revesz, a professor and former dean at New York University School of Law. 

Regan also previously worked at EPA under the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations before heading to the Environmental Defense Fund as their southeast regional director.

Revesz is an expert in environmental and regulatory law — something that could be key for an administration determined to reverse Trump-era environmental rollbacks. 

The transition team did not respond to request for comment nor did the California Air Resources Board, where Nichols’s term expires at the end of the year.

Nichols has often been called the Queen of Green and is considered one of the top environmental regulators in the country.

She pushed back against the criticism in the letter, which argued that the cap and trade program California uses to control emissions allows companies to pay to pollute, saying that the revenues were largely routed to low income and minority communities.

“California is at the forefront of actions anywhere in the nation and the world to direct attention and funding to underfunded communities,” Nichols told the Times in an interview last week. 

The Biden team is also reportedly weighing former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Biden administration breaks down climate finance roadmap Obama to attend Glasgow climate summit White House puts together climate finance strategy MORE for a role with the administration, though her name has been floated both for EPA and a role in the White House overseeing domestic climate policy to match the special envoy role given to John KerryJohn KerryPressure grows for breakthrough in Biden agenda talks Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Climate divides conservative Democrats in reconciliation push Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Altria — Walrus detectives: Scientists recruit public to spot mammal from space MORE.

McCarthy currently works at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"Gina’s been clear she’s dedicated to advancing NRDC’s work," the organization said by email.