By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌, ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌ 

Months after Black employees called out widespread racism at the California Air Resources Board (CARB), Gov. Gavin Newsom has appointed two African American women to the board of the California agency that shapes state policy against air pollution.  

Liane Randolph (Courtesy Photo)

Last week, the governor announced that he appointed Liane Randolph, 55, of Oakland, who was in charge of integrating the resource-planning processes at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), as the new chair of CARB. 

“Cleaner air is essential for California’s families and 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,” Gov. Newsom said. “By committing to achieving carbon neutrality and a clean economy, my Administration is fighting for a healthier and more vibrant future for our families and our economy.” 

Randolph is the first Black person to serve as chair of CARB.  

Responding to the news of her appointment, Randolph said she is “beyond excited” about the work she will do at CARB. 

“Governor Newsom and the Legislature have set California on a bold path to address the air pollution that burdens our communities and the existential threat of climate change,” Randolph said. “Implementing these policies requires effective management and strategy that centers the people affected most by environmental damage. I am eager to step forward and continue California’s leadership in tackling these challenging issues.” 

Randolph has been a Commissioner at the CPUC since 2015. Before that, she was deputy secretary and general counsel at the California Natural Resources Agency from 2011 to 2014. From 2007 to 2011, she was an attorney at the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. 

Randolph, a Democrat, also served as chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission from 2003 to 2007. From 1996 to 1997, she a was staff attorney there as well.  

She holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California Los Angeles School of Law. The CARB chairperson’s position requires Senate confirmation, and the compensation is $183,552.  

 Randolph replaces Mary Nichols, CARB’s outgoing chair, who is reportedly President-elect Joe Biden’s top pick to be the next Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  

Another Black woman, Davina Hurt, will also serve on the air agency’s board. She joins other members: John Balmes of Berkeley, Los Angeles’ Gideon Kracov, and Tania Pacheco-Werner of Sanger.  

Hurt, 45, has been a Belmont City councilmember since 2015. She has worked as a campaign manager at the Democratic Volunteer Center from 2014 to 2015. 

Hurt is a member of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. This CARB board position requires Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Hurt is also a Democrat. 

In September, the Concerned Black Employees at CARB (CBE CARB) submitted a 13-page letter alleging discrimination at the agency. It stated that members had been the target of routine and systematic racism and that they had been excluded from promotions.  

CARB, the letter points out, has a total of 1,627 employees and only 73 of them are Black. Only one African American has held an executive position with the organization. 

“Our intent in sharing this Letter and Action Plan is not to shame or belittle CARB, or to assign blame. We enjoy the work we do at CARB and want to do all we can to improve CARB for the future, and our future careers with the agency,” CBE CARB stated.  

Last summer, at the height of the George Floyd riots and the national reckoning on race, Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Sacramento), who is African American, expressed disapproval and disappointment after Nichols posted a tweet comparing air pollution violations with the tragic death of George Floyd. 

“How dare you use a dying man’s plea for help as a way to discuss your agenda. Have you no shame?” Cooper reacted to Nichols’ tweet.  

Nichols posted on June 1, “‘I can’t breathe’ speaks to police violence, but it also applies to the struggle for clean air. Environmental racism is just one form of racism. It’s all toxic. Government needs to clean it up in word and deed.”  

Nichols later issued an apology via Twitter, stating “I apologize for speaking at the wrong time about the wrong topic. Racism comes in many forms and I believe we must fight every instance of it in our society.”