Former Chair, California Air Resources Board
Mary Nichols served as Chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) from 2007 through 2020. She also served as Chair from 1979-1983. As CARB Chair, Nichols was the chief air quality policy spokesperson for the state and led a board of 16 members appointed by the Governor and approximately 1,700 professional staff including scientists, engineers, and regulatory experts. She 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. These programs include California’s trailblazing diesel truck rules to cut harmful PM and NOx emissions; multiple sets of emissions standards for cleaner light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles; the most comprehensive economy-wide cap-and-trade program in the world; a Low Carbon Fuel Standard that has spawned a whole new generation of cleaner, low and zero carbon fuels; a comprehensive set of programs to cut methane and other short-lived climate pollutants; and a first-of-its-kind statewide Community Air Protection Program to slash pollution in the most impacted communities across the state.
While at CARB, Nichols led multiple efforts on behalf of California to collaborate with other states, the US federal government, and other countries and provinces to develop joint solutions to address climate change, including California’s joint effort with the US government to develop historic federal GHG standards for vehicles during the Obama Administration.
In addition to her tenure at CARB, from 1997-2003, she served as the California Secretary for the Natural Resources Agency, where she was responsible for the State’s activities relating to the management, preservation, and enhancement of its natural resources, and for the oversight of the state’s scenic, cultural, and recreational resources. From 1993-1997, Nichols served as Assistant Administrator of Air and Radiation for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton. After law school, she worked as an attorney for the Center for Law in the Public Interest in Los Angeles from 1971-1974, where she brought cases on behalf of environmental and public health organizations to enforce state and federal clean air legislation. While there, she brought the first litigation under the then-recently-passed U.S. Clean Air Act.
Nichols has devoted her entire career in public and nonprofit service to protecting public health and the environment. Nichols received her B.A. from Cornell University and her J.D. from Yale Law School. She was one of the first female journalists hired by The Wall Street Journal.