California governor names Nichols' replacement to lead air quality regulator

(Reuters) - California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday named attorney Liane Randolph, a commissioner at the state’s public utilities regulator, to lead the agency that oversees implementation of its ambitious climate change policies.

Randolph, 55, will succeed the retiring Mary Nichols as chair of the powerful California Air Resources Board (CARB). She will be the agency’s first Black chair.

California has among the most aggressive climate change policies in the world, including a goal of decarbonizing its economy by 2045.

“Liane Randolph is the kind of bold, innovative leader that will lead in our fight against climate change with equity and all California’s communities at heart,” Newsom said in a statement.

Randolph has served on the California Public Utilities Commission since 2015, overseeing the body’s investigation of the massive 2015-16 leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility and planning efforts by utilities to meet the state’s power-sector greenhouse gas reduction goals.

She previously served as deputy secretary and general counsel at the California Natural Resources Agency.

Nichols, who has been a major force behind California’s climate policies as leader of CARB since 2010, will retire when her term ends at the end of this year. She is the front-runner to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President-elect Joe Biden, according to sources familiar with the selection process.

Randolph is a Democrat. The CARB chair position requires confirmation by the Democratic-controlled state Senate.

Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Peter Cooney