Climate Solutions: Air
Mary D. Nichols is widely recognized for a career as one of the world’s most important environmental regulators. Nichols currently serves as the co-chair of the Coalition for Reimagined Mobility, as vice chair of the California-China Climate Institute with former Governor Edmund J. Brown of California, holds visiting appointments at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy and Cornell Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, is a fellow at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Distinguished Counsel at UCLA School of Law.
In December 2020, Nichols completed her long tenure at the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a post she has held since 2007 and from 1979-1983. Under Republican and Democratic governors, Nichols oversaw the development and implementation of multiple globally recognized programs to cut air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in ways that create jobs and support economic growth. During her leadership at the CARB, California became a national leader at developing clean energy and clean transportation solutions that many other states and nations have adopted.
Nichols brings a large area of expertise drawing from her many other positions, including bringing the first litigation under the then-recently passed U.S. Clean Air Act while working at the Center for Law in the Public Interest from 1971-1974. From 1993-1997, Nichols served as assistant administrator of Air and Radiation for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton. Her efforts there led to the first federal air quality standard regulating potentially deadly fine-particle pollution and the acid rain trading program.
Nichols has also served as the California Secretary for the Natural Resources Agency from 1997-2003, as executive director of Environment Now Foundation; founder of the Los Angeles Office of Natural Resources Defense Council; professor and director at UCLA Institute of Environment; and co-founder of the first environmental justice working group, a multi-ethnic forum for leaders from traditional environmental and community-based organizations to address issues of environmental equity.
Nichols received her B.A. from Cornell University and her J.D. from Yale Law School.
Ms. Nichols' Athenaeum presentation is part of the Climate Solutions Series this spring.