Governor Phil Scott has appointed John Beling as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, which oversees the state’s air quality, water quality and waste programs.
Beling took over as acting commissioner on April 15 after the resignation of Peter Walke. Walke, who served as commissioner for two years, is now chief executive of Efficiency Vermont, a nonprofit energy efficiency utility.
Previously, Beling was general counsel for the Department of Environmental Conservation and an attorney for several federal and state government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency, the attorneys general of Vermont and Massachusetts, the Vermont Department of Public Service and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
The East Montpellier resident grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts and attended Tufts University and St. John’s University Law School.
In his new role, Beling will oversee 300 people who work in the various divisions of the department.
“It’s a really talented group of engineers and scientists, and they’re all people who work here because we have a mission,” Beling said. “It’s very important work, and I think people get a lot out of it. And there’s a lot of work, so it’s good that they’re all equally committed to what they do.
The department is one of three within the Natural Resources Agency. The others are the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Forestry, Parks and Recreation.
Beling named a number of priorities in his work as commissioner. The department has been allocated an unprecedented amount of federal funds for various infrastructure projects, and the first task ahead will be the deployment of that money, he said.
He will help implement Vermont’s new environmental justice law, continue to evaluate the state’s response to PFAS — particularly in light of new health advisories from the Environmental Protection Agency — and strive advance the fight against harmful PCB contaminants in schools.
“It’s a huge pound of work, and it’s kind of getting behind the wheel while the vehicle is going down the highway at what feels, right now, about 80 miles an hour,” said Julie Moore, Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency. “To have someone who has this experience and understands these programs – I’m grateful that he has agreed to take on this role.”
Walke, who preceded Beling as commissioner, expressed strong support for his successor.
“Vermont has an incredible number of opportunities and challenges ahead of us on the environmental front,” he said. “John’s extensive knowledge and work experience on a number of environmental issues will really put him in a good position to succeed as a commissioner.
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