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Who will lead Biden's EPA?Who will lead Biden's EPA?

11 names floated as potential picks to lead the agency that responsible for protecting human health and environment.

Compiled by staff

November 18, 2020

3 Min Read

Farm Futures blogger Gary Baise, an Illinois farmer and trial attorney at the law firm Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PLC who served as the chief of staff to the first EPA administrator, previewed President-Elect Joe Biden's EPA review team in a recent column. We decided to check the web to see who was being considered for the top seat at the agency now lead by Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist. Baise, by the law, organized President Trump's agricultural team of advisers.

The head of the EPA team is Patrice Simms, an environmental attorney at Earthjustice, which has filed more than 100 lawsuits against Trump's administration. Simms previously worked as deputy attorney general in the Justice Department's environment division, according to Reuters.

Politico has a list of those reportedly being considered for top cabinet posts. Here's the suggestions for EPA head from Politico and other sources:

  1. Mary Nichols: Chair of the California Air Resources Board, former California Natural Resources Secretary, former Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation.

  2. Heather McTeer Toney, a clean air activist who is the national director for Moms Clean Air Force and a former regional director of EPA's southeast region.

  3. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

  4. former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, who pushed environmental causes in office.

  5. Daniel Esty, a Yale University law professor who led the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

  6. Maia Bellon, who led the Washington State Department of Ecology.

  7. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, champion of the Green New Deal.

  8. Mustafa Santiago Ali, vice president of environmental justice, climate and community revitalization at the National Wildlife Federation. He spent 24 years at EPA.

  9. Leslie Fields, senior director for environmental justice and healthy communities at the Sierra Club. She teaches at Howard University School of Law.

  10. Richard Revesz, New York University law professor.

What will Biden look for in an EPA administrator?

In interviews, former EPA administrators and officials, current and former lawmakers, Democratic consultants, and environmental activists said whoever leads EPA in a potential Biden administration will have to know the agency inside and out. The person's resume may include time as a regional administrator at EPA, head of a state environmental agency or even a governor, E&E News reported.

What are some issues a Biden-Harris EPA would address?

Tackling climate change would be at the forefront, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Another issue would be environmental justice, he told E&E News.

Biden and Harris have put environmental justice at the center of their $2 trillion climate change plan, which calls for 40% of all clean energy investments to be in poor communities, according to Reuters.

Trump critics say the administration was effective in rolling back environmental protections that Biden's team will need to clean up, according to Mic.

Other industries weigh in.

The solid waste industry offers their thoughts on the impact of the new administration in this Waste360 article.

What does EPA do?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for the protection of human health and the environment.  EPA:

  • Provides technical assistance to support recovery planning of public health and infrastructure,

  • Provides technical assistance for long-term cleanup to minimize public health threats, including environmental sampling and monitoring, site assessment, decontamination, and disposal.

  • Provides environmental surveillance.

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