Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has tapped Doug Benevento, a utility executive and former executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to lead the agency’s Region 8 headquarters.

The Trump administration pick has received bipartisan endorsements from current and former Colorado elected leaders including Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and former EPA Region 8 administrator Jim Martin, an Obama-appointee.

“There are some big tasks in front of the agency and the region that I look forward to taking on,” Benevento told Western Wire after the announcement. “[Pruitt] talked about cooperative federalism, which is really ensuring that the state and local governments take the lead in environmental protection,” he said. Working cooperatively between his office and the states, Benevento said, will be a staple of his tenure.

“They’re the ones closest to the issues and they’re the ones who have the best answers,” Benevento continued. The EPA’s role of enforcement, Benevento said, is best accompanied by state governments in particular for implementation of the agency’s programs that best meets the states’ environmental needs.

Benevento, Director of Energy Policy at Xcel Energy, will run the office covering Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana, as well as 27 tribal nations. He is expected to start Oct. 16, taking over from acting chief Deb Thomas, and will lead an agency that oversees air and water quality, Superfund remediation, and implementation of federal environmental protections.

Benevento has worked on a number of energy and environmental issues in his time at CDPHE and then at Xcel Energy. He listed energy development in Region 8 as a priority.

“There is not an inherent conflict between energy development and the environment,” said Benevento, adding that the EPA should be expected to be transparent in applying environmental laws.

Western Wire was the first to report Benevento’s candidacy in September. He received bipartisan endorsements from current and former Colorado elected leaders and former EPA Region 8 administrator Jim Martin, an Obama-appointee.

“Doug Benevento has an extensive background working on important environmental issues in the State of Colorado,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), pointing to Benevento’s record at CDPHE under former Gov. Bill Owens (R). “I look forward to working with Doug and the rest of EPA to improve the health of Coloradans and protect the natural resources we treasure as we live, work, and play in this beautiful state.”

Former EPA Region 8 administrator Jim Martin, an Obama-appointee, called Benevento a “sound choice to lead EPA Region VIII. As a former regional administrator, I understand the challenges of the position and Doug is well suited to take on those challenges.”

Martin told Western Wire last month that “[a]n EPA regional administrator should understand the statutes and be prepared for EPA disaster response responsibilities.”

“Over the almost 20 years I’ve known Doug he’s brought a thoughtful approach to environmental policy and regulation,” said Martin. “I’m confident he will provide strong and effective leadership at EPA.”

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“Doug Benevento is a great choice to serve as EPA Region 8 Administrator and has the requisite experience as the former Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) in a statement. “I look forward to working with Doug to make the communities whole in Southwest Colorado that were impacted by the EPA-born Gold King Mine spill, ensuring the expeditious cleanup of Colorado’s Superfund sites remain a top priority for the EPA, and protecting Colorado’s environment across all four corners of the state.”

“It’s my responsibility to bring a Western perspective to national policy-making and bring that to the table at EPA,” said Benevento. “The West is different.”

“I’m optimistic that Doug Benevento’s experience will serve him well in building the collaborative state-EPA partnership needed to protect public health and the environment,” said Alan Matheson, Executive Director of Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality. “Having run Colorado’s health and environment agency, Mr. Benevento appreciates the state interest in meeting environmental standards in ways that reflect local conditions, economies, and values.”

“The true work of environmental protection happens at the state level, and we want to do everything we can to support our state partners while also fulfilling our mission of ensuring that the laws are being implemented faithfully,” said Benevento.

Matheson noted Benevento’s track record in public policy covering both executive agency and industry experience.

“I’m also encouraged that his experience in industry has fostered a practical approach to ensuring environmental compliance,” said Matheson.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with Mr. Benevento in addressing the issues facing Colorado’s agriculture and rural communities when it comes to the EPA,” Don Shawcroft, President of the Colorado Farm Bureau, told Western Wire. Our interaction with Secretary Pruitt has so far been positive and we look forward to Mr. Benevento helping to implement the Secretary’s goal of increased cooperation between EPA and the states.”

Stan Dempsey, President of the Colorado Mining Association, told Western Wire that Benevento’s success in running CDPHE and previous experience working for former Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard (R)’s office will build stakeholder trust within the region.

“Doug will do an incredible job as Region 8 administrator,” Dempsey said. “He has tremendous experience both at the federal level and the state level, and along with Pruitt, will produce an energy dominant result while also carrying out the mission of the agency—improving the environment in the Rocky Mountain states.”

Benevento promised a hands-on approach to finding out efficiencies in permitting and enforcement within the agency and cooperatively with state and local officials.

“The EPA should be doing what it can to empower states and ensuring they have what they need to do the job and not second-guessing them,” said Benevento.