California Gets New Environmental Chief

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Governor Jerry Brown’s pick to head the California Environmental Protection Agency started his new position at the beginning of this month. Matt Rodriquez has a big job in front of him and with the opportunity comes a lot of challenges. In his first interview as acting Cal EPA chief, Andrea Kissack talks with Rodriquez about his background and what he sees as some of the environmental priorities in California.

Just what drew Rodriquez to seek the top environmental post in California? Rodriquez says he spent more time at Disneyland when he was young than out in nature camping but he developed a passion for clean air and soil and promoting what seemed right. His last post was as chief assistant attorney general under then attorney general, and now governor, Jerry Brown. In his former position he focused on state environmental law. As Rodriquez takes on his new post, he is focused on curbing green house gases and learning more about the chemicals in our products. The new Cal EPA chief isn’t willing to talk much about the pesticide methyl iodide, a controversial replacement to methyl bromide. But he does say he is looking into concerns that methyl iodide may cause harmful health effects. A coalition of environmental and farm worker groups has filed a suit to ban the use of methyl iodide in California. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger approved the use of the pesticide just before leaving office.

Rodriquez also has to figure out how to protect the state’s environment in the face of budget cutbacks. He says he is looking at creative solutions that could involve some partnerships with industry and non- profits. Rodriquez still needs to be confirmed by the state legislature.