Mary D. Nichols and State of California Receive Environmental Achievement Award—Special Award Presentation by Rep. Henry Waxman


Joint Award presented to Ms. Nichols and the state of California by Representative Henry Waxman

at DC Ceremony on October 21

           Mary D. Nichols speaking at the ELI 2014 Award Dinner

On October 21, ELI was proud to present its 2014 Environmental Achievement Award to:

  • Mary D. Nichols, Chairman of the California Air Resources Board, appointed in 2007 by Gov. Schwarzenegger and reappointed in 2011 by Governor Brown; honored by Time Magazine in 2013 as one of the 100 most influential people in the world; and
  • The state of California whose national environmental leadership stretches back at least to the 1960s.

The Award recognizes their decades of remarkable leadership in advancing innovative programs to protect and enhance the environment and our natural resources, combat climate change, and transition California to a new energy economy.

This is the 30th Anniversary of the prestigious ELI Award and the first time that a state has been selected. Representative Henry A. Waxman presented the 2014 Award. A longtime champion of environmental and public health protection, Rep. Waxman was one of the primary authors of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, which comprehensively addressed the problems of urban smog, toxic air pollution, acid rain, and the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer. The Award was presented at the ELI Annual Award Dinner on Tuesday, October 21 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.

“Mary Nichols and California are pioneers in protecting our planet from environmental threats,” said ELI Chair Edward L. Strohbehn Jr. “Their achievements are legendary. They are leading us to a better future.”

“Mary Nichols and the state of California represent the gold standard of our profession,” stated ELI President John C. Cruden, “achieving significant progress through different Administrations, leading, advancing, and protecting human health and the environment.”

Mary D. Nichols was honored as one of the foremost environmental leaders in the nation. Since 1974, she has served in significant environmental and natural resources leadership positions in both the State and Federal Government and in both Republican and Democratic Administrations. She is Chairman of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a post she has held since 2007 when she was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and then, in 2011, reappointed by Governor Jerry Brown. In 1999, Governor Gray Davis appointed her Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency. In 1993, President Clinton appointed her the EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Programs. And in 1974, Governor Jerry Brown appointed her California’s first Secretary of Environmental Affairs and the Chairman of CARB.

Throughout her 40 years of national and state environmental and natural resources leadership, Mary Nichols has led with passion and conviction, achieving respect and admiration from environmental and business communities alike. She has been responsible for implementing effectively—and on time—some of the most complex and innovative air quality programs in the nation. At CARB, she is implementing California’s landmark and complex greenhouse gas emissions reduction program. This is the world’s only economy- wide greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade program. At the same time, she is orchestrating implementation of CARB’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which requires a 10 percent reduction in carbon intensity of transportation fuels in California by 2020. In 2012, Ms. Nichols led California’s joint effort with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Federal Department of Transportation to develop historic greenhouse gas emission and fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles. These rules will cut emissions of global warming gases by 34 percent and result in 75 percent fewer smog-forming emissions from new automobiles by 2025. Twenty years ago at EPA, she implemented the innovative acid rain trading program that demonstrated the effectiveness of harnessing market forces to curb air pollution emissions.

In 2013, Ms. Nichols was named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by TIME Magazine and profiled as one of the world’s 100 leading artists, pioneers, titans, and icons. Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson described Mary Nichols as the “Thomas Edison of environmentalism” and “a fierce champion of cutting-edge technology that is changing her state, a nation and the world.”

Ms. Nichols graduated from Cornell University in 1966 and the Yale Law School in 1971. She was an attorney with the Los Angeles Center for Law in the Public Interest before being appointed to chair CARB in 1974. In 1989, she opened the Los Angeles office of the Natural Resources Defense Council. And in 2003, she was appointed a Professor of Law at UCLA and Director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment.

The state of California was honored for its preeminent, pathbreaking leadership role in initiating and implementing innovative and effective environmental protection and enhancement programs since the 1960s. California’s achievements are undertaken on a huge scale. California is the most populous U.S. state with over 38.3 million inhabitants, more than 12 percent of the total U.S. population. Within the state’s 164,000 square miles lie the nation’s second and fifth most populous cities (Los Angeles and San Francisco). Its economy is the 12th largest in the world. Notwithstanding the size and diversity of the state, its environmental achievements are legendary. Over many decades California has been the nation’s leader in environmental legislation, natural resource stewardship, community involvement, and environmental innovation. Here are a few of California’s many achievements.


●  2006 Global Warming Solutions Act. To combat climate change, in 2006, California enacted AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act. Under the Act, California created the first economy wide greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade program in the world. Its implementation proceeds apace, an example for governments around the world.


●  2002 Clean Cars Law. The law requires automakers to achieve a 30 percent overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2016. The California law provided the basis for 14 other states to adopt California’s standards for regulating tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases.


●  2011 Renewable Energy Generation Requirements.  In 2011, California enacted legislation that requires 33 percent of California’s electricity be produced by renewable energy sources. These are the strictest requirements in the nation. In December 2013, the president of the state’s Public Utilities Commission announced that California is on track to meet or surpass this goal.


●  2008 Green Chemistry Initiative. The law establishes toxic substances control standards to identify and restrict toxic chemicals in consumer products sold in the state. The law requires a novel life-cycle “alternatives analysis” to evaluate alternatives and substitutes for hazardous substances in consumer products based not only upon their risk during product use, but also during their manufacture and disposal. The program is broader and stricter in its requirements than the European REACH program and the federal Toxic Substances Control Act requirements.


These recent achievements were presaged by California’s early pioneering environmental achievements.


●  1959 State Air Quality Program. In 1959, California became the first state to create an air quality program. Under this program California set the nation’s first automobile standards for nitrous oxide.


●  1969 Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act. In 1969, California enacted the path breaking Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act. The Act requires permits for discharges of pollutants in state waters. This statutory obligation became California law three years before enactment of the 1972 Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Congress relied on the Porter-Cologne Act to craft the federal law.


●  1970 California Environmental Quality Act. In 1970, California passed the California Environmental Quality Act, similar to but far stronger than the 1970 federal National Environmental Policy Act. CEQA requires mitigation of project related environmental impacts, not just an analysis of their impacts as NEPA requires.


●  1972 Hazardous Waste Control Legislation. In 1972, California initiated regulation of the processing, handling, transporting, and disposal of hazardous wastes—four years prior to federal enactment of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. California’s law served as the model for the federal statute and was more comprehensive than the federal law.

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