EPA Names Interim Office Heads During Transition Time (Correct)

Jan. 20, 2021, 4:35 PM; Updated: Jan. 23, 2021, 3:08 PM

Jane Nishida will serve as the agency’s acting administrator until Michael Regan is confirmed to lead the EPA, the Biden administration said late Wednesday.

Nishida is the Environmental Protection Agency’s principal deputy assistant head of the Office of International and Tribal Affairs, where she captains environmental policy development and program implementation in tribal lands and nations outside of the U.S.

Earlier, in an internal email on Tuesday, Mandy Gunasekara, the EPA’s chief of staff under former Administrator Andrew Wheeler, announced that Sarah Dunham will become the acting chief of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. Dunham is currently the director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality.

The previous air chief was Anne Idsal. The EPA’s air office is widely expected to become one of the agency’s busiest under President Joe Biden.

The assignments are transitional only, and will likely change upon the confirmation of Regan, Biden’s nominee to lead the agency and the North Carolina environmental regulator.

The Trump administration had earlier picked Charlotte Bertrand, the policy chief at the EPA’s water office, as the acting administrator.

Other Shifts

Andrew Sawyers will assume interim control of the Office of Water, according to Gunasekara’s email. Currently the director of the Office of Wastewater Management, Sawyers supplants outgoing acting assistant administrator Anna Wildeman.

Other shifts include Barry Breen, who will take the reins of the Office of Land and Emergency Management, which oversees hazardous waste and other programs. Breen, the principal deputy assistant administrator of the office, replaces outgoing chief Peter Wright.

Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta will become the interim chief of the Office of Research and Development. Orme-Zavaleta had already been serving as the principal deputy assistant administrator for science at that office.

Larry Starfield becomes interim head of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, taking over from Susan Bodine. Starfield had been serving directly under Bodine as principal deputy assistant administrator.

As Bloomberg Law previously reported, Tala Henry, deputy director of the EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, will become the acting chief of the parent Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

Gunasekara’s email also listed the acting heads of EPA’s 10 regions. Region 9, which spans the Pacific Southwest, will be temporarily headed by Deborah Jordan, the region’s deputy regional administrator. Region 1, which covers New England, will be led by Deborah Szaro, who has been serving as the region’s deputy chief.

Further interim appointments include:

  • Jim Payne at the Office of General Counsel. Payne is the deputy general counsel for environmental media and regional law offices within the office.
  • Helena Wooden-Aguilar at the Office of Policy. Woods-Aguilar is the office’s deputy chief.
  • David Bloom at the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. Bloom is the EPA’s deputy chief financial officer.
  • Donnia Vizian at the Office of Mission Support. Vizian has already been the office’s principal deputy assistant administrator.
  • Robin Richardson at the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations. Richardson is deputy associate administrator there.
  • Lee Tanner at the Office of Public Engagement and Environmental Education.
  • Nancy Grantham at the Office of Public Affairs. Grantham is that office’s principal deputy associate administrator.

The EPA also rounded out a list of temporary chiefs at each of its 10 regional offices, drawing from existing officials:

  • Walter Mugdan at Region 2, covering New York and New Jersey. He has been acting as deputy regional administrator.
  • Diana Esher at Region 3, covering the mid-Atlantic states. Esher is the region’s acting deputy regional chief.
  • John Blevins at Region 4, spanning the southeast. Blevins is a Region 4 division director.
  • Cheryl Newton at Region 5, covering the Great Lakes states.
  • David Gray at Region 6, covering the south. Gray is Region 6’s deputy regional administrator.
  • Ed Chu at Region 7, which encompasses Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri. Chu is the deputy regional administrator.
  • Deb Thomas at Region 8, covering Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. Thomas is the Region 8 deputy regional administrator.
  • Michelle Pirzadeh at Region 10, spanning the Pacific Northwest. Pirzadeh has been serving as the deputy regional administrator.
(Corrects Deborah Jordan's former title in 12th paragraph in Jan. 20 story.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Lee in Washington at stephenlee@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anna Yukhananov at ayukhananov@bloombergindustry.com; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergindustry.com

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