California Gov. Gavin Newsom Names Liane Randolph for CARB Chair

Liane Randolph, then California Public Utilities Commissioner, listens during a January 2019 meeting. (AP)
Liane Randolph, then California Public Utilities Commissioner, listens during a January 2019 meeting in San Francisco. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)

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Gov. Gavin Newsom has named one of California’s utility-company regulators to lead the state agency that fights air pollution and climate change.

Liane Randolph, who has sat on the governing board of the California Public Utilities Commission since 2015, is the next chair of the California Air Resources Board, Newsom’s office said Dec. 9. Randolph will succeed longtime chair Mary Nichols, whose term ends Dec. 31.

Nichols, an influential figure in California government who has helped shape some of the state’s most significant climate policies of recent years, is a leading candidate to run the Environmental Protection Agency in the administration of President-elect Joe Biden, according to various news reports.

Randolph, a 55-year-old Oakland resident, said in a statement that she is “beyond excited” to join the air board’s “path-breaking team,” which she said has “been at the forefront of environmental progress for decades.”


California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference on Sept. 23. (Daniel Kim/Sacramento Bee via AP)

Randolph indicated that, when she joins the air board, she will place particular emphasis on low-income communities of color that are often disproportionately harmed by poor air quality.

“Governor Newsom and the Legislature have set California on a bold path to address the air pollution that burdens our communities and the existential threat of climate change,” she said. “Implementing these policies requires effective management and strategy that centers the people affected most by environmental damage. I am eager to step forward and continue California’s leadership in tackling these challenging issues.”

Randolph also praised Nichols “for her vision and tireless work in support of environmental progress.”

Newsom echoed the sentiment in his own statement, saying that during Nichols’ “extraordinary tenure” at the helm of the air board, she had “done more than any other Californian to boldly reduce air pollution through both innovation and tenacity.”

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Among her accomplishments is the implementation of California’s cap-and-trade program that limits the amount of greenhouse gases major businesses are allowed to emit. Nichols was also involved with various efforts to curb emissions from cars, including a contentious battle with the Trump administration.

“Thanks to Mary and her excellent staff, CARB now stands as a beacon for how to lead with responsible public policy toward cleaner air,” Newsom said.

At the utilities commission, Randolph has been closely involved with the regulatory response to Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s responsibility for several years of deadly wildfires and its related bankruptcy case that wrapped up this year. A lawyer who was once San Leandro’s city attorney, Randolph also once served as deputy secretary and general counsel at the California Natural Resources Agency, among other roles.

Her term on the utilities commission concludes at the end of the year. Once he names a successor to Randolph, Newsom will have appointed a majority of the commission’s five governing board members.

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