Senate confirms Todd Kim for DOJ environment chief

By Pamela King | 07/27/2021 12:23 PM EST

Todd Kim, President Biden's nominee to lead the Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division, during his confirmation hearing. Francis Chung/E&E News

The Justice Department’s environment division has a new leader.

In a 58-41 bipartisan vote today, the Senate confirmed Todd Kim as assistant attorney general in charge of DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD).

Kim will lead the DOJ team responsible for enforcing the nation’s clean air and water laws and defending the Biden administration’s environmental regulations in court. He takes the helm at a time when President Biden has pledged to give special attention to environmental harms to low-income and minority communities.

Kim worked as an ENRD trial attorney for seven years early in his legal career. His service at the division spanned the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

In one environmental case during his first stint at ENRD, Kim defended the federal government’s denial of a Clean Water Act permit for a condominium development in a Michigan wetland (Greenwire, March 18).

The core question in the case, which waterways and wetlands should be subject to federal permitting requirements, has still yet to be answered definitively by the courts — or by federal regulation.

The Biden administration is expected to put forth a new definition of waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, in the coming years. ENRD attorneys would defend the rule against any subsequent legal challenges.

After leaving ENRD in 2006, Kim served for 11 years as the first solicitor general for Washington. During that time, former President Obama selected Kim for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, but his nomination stalled in the Senate.

Kim then spent three years in private practice at the law firm Reed Smith LLP. In January, Biden tapped Kim to be deputy general counsel for litigation, regulation and enforcement at the Energy Department.

In 2004, while he was at ENRD, Kim was a contestant on the television game show "Who Wants to Be a Super Millionaire?," a spinoff of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" (Greenwire, March 16). He holds bachelor’s and law degrees from Harvard University.

ENRD has been led by career DOJ attorney Jean Williams since January. The division’s last confirmed head, Jeffrey Bossert Clark, faces allegations that he worked with former President Trump to pursue baseless claims of election fraud and to oust then-acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen (Greenwire, Jan. 26).