California Air Resources Board Chair Liane Randolph announced today that the Board is appointing Dr. Steven Cliff as CARB’s new Executive Officer, replacing CARB’s previous Executive Officer, Richard Corey, who retired at the end of June.
Cliff, whose professional training was in atmospheric chemistry, has extensive experience at the highest levels of state and federal government agencies. He served for four years as CARB’s Deputy Executive Officer overseeing mobile sources prior to his current position as Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“Steve brings a deep understanding of the science of air pollution, along with a strong commitment and track record of promoting the solutions that deliver clean air benefits for all Californians, especially those living in communities impacted by persistent pollution,” said CARB Chair Liane Randolph. “He is the right choice to implement the Board’s vision during this crucial decade as we move ahead with the ambitious policies and programs to tackle the state’s climate emergency and continue to prioritize equity both within CARB’s workforce and in the communities we serve. His experience developing programs and incentives to promote zero-emission vehicles that protect communities from harmful air pollution, and his support for sustainable transportation and mobility options ensure a continued focus at CARB on equity that delivers low-carbon solutions where they are most needed.”
Cliff was appointed by President Biden to NHTSA in February 2021. As the NHTSA Administrator, Cliff oversees the nation’s vehicle safety agency that sets vehicle safety standards, identifies safety defects and manages recalls, and educates Americans to help them drive, ride, and walk safely. While at NHTSA Cliff oversaw the development of tough fuel efficiency requirements for passenger cars and light trucks, initiated rule making on heavy-duty fuel efficiency standards and for pedestrian automatic emergency braking in passenger vehicles, and finalized a rule to improve access to safe vehicles for people with disabilities
Prior to his time in the federal government, Cliff served as the deputy executive officer at CARB. He began his career at CARB in 2008 as an air pollution specialist in the then Office of Climate Change. Since then, he has held a variety of positions at CARB and from 2014 to 2016, he served at the California Department of Transportation as the assistant director for sustainability. He returned to CARB in 2016 when then-Governor Jerry Brown appointed him senior advisor to CARB’s then Chair.
As deputy executive officer at CARB from 2017 to 2021, Cliff oversaw the regulations for all vehicles including passenger cars, and medium- and heavy-duty vehicles both on- and off-road. He also oversaw transportation land-use planning and analysis, and worked with environmental and equity advocates on developing incentive and investment programs for reducing emissions and making the cleanest cars available to low-income consumers and impacted communities. Under his watch, CARB implemented $1.5 billion in low-carbon and zero-emission transportation projects. Almost $1 billion of those investments directly benefited priority populations, including financing assistance and incentives to purchase or upgrade vehicles for low-income consumers, the launch of the Sustainable Transportation Equity Project, and $149 million for zero and near-zero emission trucks and equipment at freight facilities.
For nearly two decades, Cliff was affiliated with the University of California, Davis, joining the school’s Applied Sciences department as a research professor, and later associated with the school’s Air Quality Research Center. Through the years, he established independent air quality and climate research programs and served as an approved program coordinator at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Advanced Light Source, a specialized particle accelerator that generates bright beams of x-ray light for scientific research.
Cliff received a bachelor’s degree and doctorate in chemistry from the University of California, San Diego. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in atmospheric sciences at the University of California, Davis’ Department of Land, Air and Water Resources.
Cliff lives in Sacramento with his partner Maureen Palmer, a genetic counselor, and two children, both now in college and law school. A native of Napa Valley, Cliff enjoys returning to the ranch he grew up on and rebuilding the family property after it was ravaged in the Atlas Fire in 2017.
Cliff’s first day at CARB will be September 12, 2022.