Moving quickly to repair damage in recent days to the state\u2019s global warming program, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger July 3 appointed veteran environmental attorney and administrator Mary Nichols, 62, to replace Robert Sawyer as chair of the California Air Resources Board. In that post, Nichols will take over the effort to implement California\u2019s landmark climate protection law, AB 32. Nichols, who called global warming \u201cthe great environmental issue of our time,\u201d is no stranger to Sacramento or the Air Board. She chaired the Air Board under part of Governor Jerry Brown\u2019s tenure and has spent much of her career in the air quality field, including as assistant administrator for air and radiation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton. In that position, she was in charge of administering the acid rain emissions cap-and-trade program, widely lauded as successful in reducing emissions from power plants in a cost-effective manner. \u201cI\u2019m a believer that cap-and-trade programs can work and bring down emissions effectively,\u201d said Nichols. \u201cThe key is the cap.\u201d Based on her long experience in environmental law and policy, including her role as secretary of resources under Governor Gray Davis, Schwarzenegger said \u201cthere is no better person\u201d than Nichols to take over the state\u2019s global warming program. Nichols steps into the middle of a political controversy, in which outgoing agency leaders accused Schwarzenegger administration staffers of interfering in Air Board decision making about how to carry out the global warming law (see Juice column). Former chair Sawyer, who said the governor fired him last week, claimed that Schwarzenegger aides intervened to slow down the independent Air Board\u2019s rulemaking efforts under the law. Then, he told reporters, the governor turned around and blamed him for slow movement. Following Sawyer\u2019s dismissal, Air Board executive director Catherine Witherspoon resigned July 2, alleging that the governor\u2019s office had micromanaged the details of the air board\u2019s work under AB 32, ordering the agency to find ways to reduce costs to please lobbyists, according to news accounts. A Schwarzenegger spokesperson dismissed Witherspoon\u2019s claims as those of a disgruntled employee. Schwarzenegger himself on July 3 said that claims \u201care not fair\u201d and that the board must focus on \u201cresults\u201d instead of the \u201cMickey Mouse stuff.\u201d In light of the controversy, Nichols said that one of her chief tasks will be \u201cto restore and burnish the credentials of the Air Resources Board.\u201d She also will have to find a successor to Witherspoon, a career employee who rose through the ranks to become leader of the Air Board staff. Nichol\u2019s appointment immediately won plaudits from environmental and business groups. \u201cThis is great news for California,\u201d said Susan Smartt, California League of Conservation Voters executive director. \u201cMary\u2019s determined leadership is exactly what CARB needs.\u201d The Natural Resources Defense Council, where Nichols once served as an attorney, praised Schwarzenegger\u2019s move. \u201cWe are confident that she can hit the ground running and help return stability to this important agency so it can get back to its job of cleaning the air and fighting global warming,\u201d said Ann Notthoff, NRDC California advocacy director. \u201cShe has provided consistent leadership bringing together business and environmental interests to reach outcomes that make sense for California,\u201d said John Fielder, Southern California Edison president. Pacific Gas and Electric called her \u201cpragmatic\u201d in a prepared statement. Recently, Nichols has served on the part-time board of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, where she pushed for greater reliance on renewable technology and energy efficiency. She\u2019s been director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of California at Los Angeles. Nichols, a Yale Law School graduate, started her career as a young attorney at the Center for Law in the Public Interest in Los Angeles. There she sued the first administrator of the U.S. EPA, William Ruckelshaus, for failing to enforce the Clean Air Act of 1970 in Southern California. She won, forcing the Nixon Administration to strong arm local politicians in Los Angeles and Governor Ronald Reagan to take stronger action on air pollution.