Jeff Landry picks former Trump official, first Black woman for environmental post

Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 1:32 PM CST
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LAFAYETTE, La. (WVUE/Louisiana Illuminator) - Gov.-elect Jeff Landry has picked a member of former President Donald Trump’s administration to lead the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the primary state regulator tasked with protecting residents’ health and safety from industrial facilities.

Aurelia Skipwith Giacometto is expected to be the first Black woman ever to be the environmental quality secretary in Louisiana’s history. The Indiana native was also the first Black woman to lead the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after Trump nominated her for that job in 2018.

“It’s important that our citizens live with good water and air quality,” Landry said during a press conference announcing Giacometto’s selection.

Giacometto holds a master’s degree in molecular genetics from Purdue University and a law degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Prior to joining the federal government, she was an executive at the Monsanto Co., now part of Bayer Corp., one of the globe’s largest biotech and agricultural companies.

Several conservationists objected when Giacometto took over the federal fish and wildlife service a few years ago, particularly because of her background in the agribusiness industry. Monsanto has had to settle several lawsuits with states over alleged pollution in recent years.

“In the midst of a mass extinction crisis, [U.S.] Senate Republicans just approved the most unqualified director in Fish and Wildlife Service history,” said Stephanie Kurose, an endangered species policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity in a 2019 press release about Giacometto’s federal confirmation.

“They seem to have no qualms about helping this anti-environment administration do even more damage to our nation’s natural heritage,” Kurose wrote.

Shortly after introducing Giacometto, Landry indicated he would likely roll back some of the work Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration has attempted to make Louisiana “carbon neutral” over the next few decades.

This includes finding ways for the state to pull away from the traditional oil and gas industry, and support other forms of energy production, including controversial measures such as carbon-capture technology.

Landry described the state’s “carbon neutral” goals as “destructive” to working families.

“Our petrochemical industry — our oil and gas industry — has lifted more people out of poverty than any other industry,” he said.

Giacometto attended Landry’s announcement at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette but was not made available to speak to reporters.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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