Heather McTeer Toney, senior director of Moms Clean Air Force, and Mustafa Santiago Ali of the National Wildlife Federation — both former EPA officials — also have support for the job. Biden has signaled climate change will be a top priority.
For Nichols, it would cap a career of championing stringent air pollution rules, negotiating landmark vehicle emissions standards and implementing California's carbon trading system. She worked at the EPA from 1993 to 1997 as head of the Office of Air and Radiation.
"Not everybody has actually run a climate action program, or an air program for that matter. And I like working with large bureaucracies," Nichols told The Associated Press. "If they offered it, I would take it."
Biden's transition team hasn't said when he'll announce environmental and energy nominees, and Nichols hadn't been interviewed as of midweek. Nichols has worked before with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who was previously California's attorney general. If Republicans hold the Senate, she may have a tough road to confirmation due to their opposition to environmental and business regulation. Republicans loyal to Trump are sure to oppose her, as California styled itself as the resistance to his administration.
To her allies, Nichols' decades of experience implementing climate policy and her long relationships make her an ideal candidate to lead the agency as it goes through the arduous process of reversing Trump administration actions. During Trump's tenure, she fought to preserve California's ability to set its own automobile emissions standards and resisted his efforts to roll back power plant pollution regulations.
"There's no one in America who combines both the technical and political work and experience as Mary Nichols has," said former California Gov. Jerry Brown, who first made Nichols chair of the California board in the late 1970s. "Having that wide scope of time and experience is invaluable, totally unique, and absolutely essential to deal with the complexities of climate."