Letters to the Editor: It’s a shame Mary Nichols won’t lead Joe Biden’s EPA

Mary Nichols sits at a table in a room during a meeting with framed photographs of people behind her.
Mary Nichols, head of California’s Air Resources Board, at a meeting in Sacramento.
(Carl Costas / For The Times)

To the editor: While we support environmental justice goals, as air pollution researchers with a century of experience between us, we are dismayed at the single-issue attacks on Mary Nichols’ distinguished record that prevented her selection as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Under her leadership as chair of the state’s Air Resources Board, California is the global leader in effective air pollution and climate change policies. Smog has decreased dramatically under Nichols’ leadership, resulting in countless lives saved and improved health, with special benefits to socioeconomically disadvantaged populations and communities of color in inland areas.

The Trump administration tried to thwart vehicle mileage standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions implemented on Nichols’ watch. In response, she negotiated with automobile manufacturers to support the standards, providing to many people climate, air quality and health benefits.


We could cite numerous other policy and technology advancements overseen by Nichols, policies that have been emulated both nationally and internationally. All of us owe her a great debt of gratitude for her impactful and unprecedented achievements over five decades of public service.

Barbara J. Finlayson-Pitts, Irvine, and Arthur M. Winer, Laguna Beach

Finlayson-Pitts, a professor emerita at UC Irvine, is an atmospheric chemist and co-director of the AirUCI Institute. Winer, also an atmospheric chemist, is a professor emeritus at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.


To the editor: The decision not to bring Nichols into the incoming Biden administration is a missed opportunity.

Having served under three governors as chair of the California Air Resources Board, Nichols has an extensive record of battling air pollution and pioneering standards to contain greenhouse gases. She also has done more for environmental justice than any other state or the nation has yet accomplished.

Let’s hope that her 30-year impact is not forgotten in the face of these churlish and backbiting complaints to prevent her being chosen as head of EPA. Too many pot shots were taken, killing the chances of what an effective, groundbreaking California leader has to offer the nation.


Diane Wittenberg, Pasadena