Few federal agencies experienced more upheaval under President Donald Trump than the Environmental Protection Agency, which saw staffers flee in droves and dozens of regulations gutted at polluters’ behest.
If former Vice President Joe Biden wins the presidential election, Democrats are looking at EPA veterans and state regulators from the fire-ravaged West Coast to take the reins of a federal agency that Trump spent the past four years bending to the GOP’s political agenda.
Among the top names under discussion is Carol Browner, who is on Biden’s climate advisory council and previously served as President Bill Clinton’s EPA administrator and President Barack Obama’s climate policy director. But some progressives, including the influential Sunrise Movement climate group, are angling for agency veterans who would be new to the top job ― such as Mustafa Santiago Ali, an environmental justice activist who worked at the agency for 24 years before stepping down in 2017, or Heather McTeer Toney, a former southeast regional administrator under Obama who now leads the nonprofit Moms Clean Air Force.
“You need people who’ve done it before, who know how the thing is baseline supposed to work, because there’s a lot of rollbacks that are going to have to be undone,” said Julian Brave NoiseCat, the vice president of strategy at the left-leaning think tank Data for Progress. “But there are more things that are going to need to get built and significantly updated.” (NoiseCat is a former HuffPost fellow.)
Data for Progress also highlighted two potential agency chiefs from states on the climate vanguard in terms of both effects and policy response: Mary Nichols, the chair of the California Air Resources Board who went head-to-head with the Trump EPA over its rollback of tailpipe emissions standards for vehicles, and Maia Bellon, who until recently headed Washington state’s Department of Ecology and shaped Gov. Jay Inslee’s climate...