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Zach McCue, Cory Booker's deputy state director, is in contention to become Region 2 Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (Photo: U.S. Senate.)

Booker aide Zach McCue is contender for top EPA job

Menendez, Booker, two dozen environmental activists urge Biden to pick U.S. Senate staffer for Region 2 post

By David Wildstein, August 16 2021 5:43 am

A top staffer to U.S. Senator Cory Booker is among the top candidates for Region 2 Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

Zach McCue, who worked for Clean Ocean Action until joining Booker’s staff in 2014, has the backing of Booker, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, and two dozen New Jersey environmental leaders and activists who have weighed in with the Biden administration in support of his appointment.

The post would put McCue front-and-center on environmental justice issues President Joe Biden has pledged to tackle.

The 34-year-old McCue began his career as a staff assistant to U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg before joining Clean Ocean Action.  As Booker’s deputy state director, he worked on water infrastructure issues and the remediation of superfund sites.

Among the officials endorsing McCue for the post were: Environment New Jersey director Doug O’Malley; Clean Ocean Action executive director Cindy Zipf; Clean Water Action NJ executive director Amy Goldsmith; NY/NJ Baykeeper Greg Remaud; Friends of Liberty State Park president Sam Pesin; NJ Highlands coalition executive director Julia Somers; Pinelands Preservation Alliance executive director Carleton Montgomery; New Jersey Conservation Foundation executive director Michele Byers; and former New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel.

“Zach has demonstrated a command of the pressing environmental issues that New Jersey, the nation, and the planet face, as well as a clear understanding of how the government can work alongside communities to solve them,” the environmental leaders and activists aid in a letter to the Biden administration obtained by the New Jersey Globe.

As a Booker aide, McCue interfaced with local and federal officials, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA, and the Departments of Energy, Transportation and the Interior.

The two dozen activists said that McCue “understands the importance of equity when addressing environmental pollutants.”

“From aging water infrastructure in poorer neighborhoods, to communities of color being exposed to toxic chemicals or emissions from nearby industry, minority communities, communities of color, low-income, and indigenous communities disproportionately bear the burden of toxic pollution, Zach worked alongside Environmental Justice communities in New Jersey, New York, and across the country to help craft Senator Booker’s landmark Environmental Justice legislation that would give Environmental Justice communities the tools they need to be protected from disparate impacts.”

The activists praised McCue’s experience, activism – after Superstorm Sandy, he spent a year organizing volunteers to help the recovery of the Jersey shore, where he grew up.

According to the two activists who signed on to a letter of support, McCue would protect the Jersey shore from fossil fuel development and fight for equity when “addressing environmental pollutants.”

“As global temperatures increase and sea levels rise, Region 2 is uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of global climate change that threaten to alter almost every aspect of our society,” the environmental leaders stated.  “Zach has worked in the Senate to advance policies that seek to lessen our nation’s reliance on fossil fuels, protect New Jersey’s critical natural resources, and reduce sources of devastating carbon emissions.”

The environmental leaders told the White House that the New Jersey/New York region “faces distinct challenges with water infrastructure, flood mitigation, and toxic site remediation.”

“Our nation is facing a water infrastructure crisis, with critical funding needs to remediate lead and copper pipes, update and enhance stormwater systems, and ultimately provide a 21st century clean and drinking water infrastructure system that American families deserve” the activists said.

If Biden picks McCue, a Cranford resident, he would be the first New Jersey Democrat to head EPA Region 2 since Bill Clinton was president.   The region includes New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and eight Indian nations and has been held by New Yorkers for the last twelve years.

In previous years, New York held the regional director post for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, while New Jersey got the EPA.  But after Barack Obama took office, now-Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer outmuscled New Jersey and took both posts.

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