Along with the election of a new governor in New Jersey, we will also have a new Commissioner heading up the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) – Catherine McCabe – a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official. Ms. McCabe, the Commissioner-designee until her nomination is approved by the New Jersey Senate, is an attorney with a distinguished career in government service. She began that service as an assistant attorney general in the New York Attorney General’s office, followed by a 22-year stint at the U.S. Department of Justice, focusing on environmental litigation and enforcement, where she rose to the position of Deputy Chief of the Environmental Enforcement Section in 2001.
She moved to EPA in 2005 where she became the Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance and Assurance, followed by a four-year stint as a judge on EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board. Her next stop was Deputy Regional Administrator of EPA Region 2 and she was selected by President Obama to serve as Acting EPA Administrator at EPA headquarters at the end of his administration and continued in that role until Scott Pruitt was confirmed to head EPA in February 2017. She returned to Region 2 as the Acting Regional Administrator until she was selected to head NJDEP by then-Governor-elect Murphy in December.
In announcing her nomination, the Governor emphasized that he “wanted someone who . . . is tough on polluters, who is understanding of those living in environmentally sensitive areas, who recognizes that our twin goals of a resilient and responsible future, and a strong and fair economy, are not mutually exclusive.” Murphy also indicated that he expects McCabe to lead New Jersey to a nationally and globally prominent role on environmental issues. She certainly has a record of experience that would suggest that she is up to the job set out for her by the Governor. Whether the regulated community will be as welcoming remains to be seen.