Many of the groups that signed on to the letter have long taken aim at California's cap-and-trade program, asserting that it allows industry to pollute in neighborhoods already suffering from unhealthy air. The program aims to limit greenhouse gases, which cause climate change, by capping industry emissions and allowing businesses to buy and sell credits at auction on a state-sponsored marketplace.
“During her tenure as CARB Chair, Nichols has been known for pushing market-based approaches to the climate crisis at the expense of the health and well-being of California’s communities of color, who suffer from some of the deadliest air in the country,” the groups wrote.
Nichols led the air board when it developed a blueprint for implementation of the original cap-and-trade program, shepherding it through a lengthy, contentious implementation process that included a dizzying array of groups with competing interests.
Some researchers that have examined the program have raised questions about its effectiveness.
CARB did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in the past, Nichols and the agency have aggressively defended cap-and-trade, citing it as the result of years of policymaking, hearings, and stakeholder input, as well as a model for the international community.
Biden has proposed spending $2 trillion over four years to spur the use of clean energy in the power, building and transportation sectors. He has also announced a sweeping set of proposals to rebuild a U.S. economy that has been savaged by the coronavirus pandemic while also reducing emissions and fighting environmental policies that have put minorities at risk.
Biden’s plan, announced in early August, helped to shore up his support among young and progressive voters who expect major action from the administration on climate change.
His pick for EPA will preside over an ambitious policy agenda aimed at reducing planet-warming gas emissions and cleaning up pollution in the nation’s poorest neighborhoods, while also growing the economy.
Nichols told the Associated Press that if Biden offers her the job, she “would take it.”
"Not everybody has actually run a climate action program, or an air program for that matter,” she said. “And I like working with large bureaucracies.”
Nichols ends her second stint as the state’s top air regulator this month. Between chairmanships she was a deputy administrator for the EPA under President Bill Clinton. She was also a founding attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council's Los Angeles bureau.