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California official could head EPA

Mary Nichols, a Los Angeles Democrat, is chairwoman of the state's influential Air Resources Board.

November 13, 2008|Margot Roosevelt | Roosevelt is a Times staff writer.
  • Nichols has been sharply critical of the EPA under President Bush.
Nichols has been sharply critical of the EPA under President Bush. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

Mary Nichols, the savvy negotiator who is leading California's complex effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, is reportedly a candidate to head President-elect Barack Obama's Environmental Protection Agency.

Nichols, 63, is chairwoman of the state's powerful Air Resources Board. She was a high-level EPA official under President Clinton, serving as the agency's assistant administrator for air and radiation.

Appointed to head the state air board by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year, the Los Angeles Democrat and former environmental attorney has energetically mediated between business and environmental advocates in designing the nation's first regulatory program to control global warming pollution.

She has been sharply critical of the EPA under President Bush for declining to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and for refusing to allow California and other states to enact curbs on such gases from automobile tailpipes.

Other candidates for the federal job, according to green groups, include Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer who has garnered praise for his efforts to combat river pollution, as well as criticism for his opposition to an offshore wind project near his family's compound on Cape Cod, Mass.

Also said to be under consideration for the position, which oversees a $7.2-billion budget, are Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius; Kathleen McGinty, former head of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection; Ian Bowles, head of Massachusetts' Energy and Environmental Affairs agency; and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson.

Nichols said she has not lobbied for the job but is "honored and pleased to be considered."

Obama transition spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to comment on "speculation," adding, "People are playing Washington guessing games."

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margot.roosevelt@latimes.com

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