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State environmental chief stepping down

He streamlined agency amid cuts

After three years as head of the state’s environmental agency, Kenneth Kimmell is stepping down to become president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a science-based advocacy organization based in Cambridge.

Kimmell, who served as general counsel of the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs before becoming commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, presided over the streamlining of the agency as it lost 25 percent of its budget and a third of its staff since the recession.

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Over seven years working in state government, Kimmell played a major role in legislative initiatives focused on climate change, ocean protection, and the siting of wind turbines. He also helped lead efforts to organize nine states to cut carbon emissions from power plants through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, for which he served as chairman for the past year.

The program has been held out as a national model to reduce carbon emissions blamed for global warming. The group has pledged to cut the nine states’ power plant carbon emissions by some 90 million tons through 2020.

“I am extremely grateful to the governor and the secretary for allowing me the opportunity to make a difference,” Kimmell said in a telephone interview, adding that he is also proud of his work to reduce the amount of food waste sent to landfills and incinerators and to draft new regulations governing water usage that are aimed at preventing rivers and streams from running dry.

“Becoming the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Kimmell said in a statement. “UCS is a nationally recognized, mission-oriented group with a stellar staff and the credibility and resources to make a difference on the defining issues of our generation. It’s an honor and a privilege to join such a prestigious organization.”

Kimmell, an environmental lawyer originally from New York, will step down March 25, when he will be replaced by David Cash, commissioner of the state Department of Public Utilities.

Cash previously served as undersecretary of policy at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, where he helped write legislation that led to the Green Communities Act, the Global Warming Solutions Act, the Green Jobs Act, and the Clean Energy Biofuels Act.

Kate McKeever, an attorney who oversees daily operations at the Department of Public Utilities, will replace Cash. She previously served as a DPU hearing officer and as an assistant district attorney for Suffolk County.

“I thank Commissioner Kimmell for his many years of service in creating a healthier, cleaner Massachusetts,” Governor Deval Patrick said in a statement. “Commissioner Cash and Kate McKeever bring many years of leadership in the environmental and energy sectors to their new positions. I thank them for taking on these new roles, and I’m confident they will build on the energy and environmental successes we have achieved.”

John Kassel, president of the Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation, called Kimmell a “great choice” to lead the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Ken has deep experience in the areas we and UCS care most about,” Kassel said in a statement.

Jack Clarke, director of public policy and government relations at Massachusetts Audubon Society, said Kimmell should be remembered for his transparency and willingness to work with a broad range of stakeholders.

“Ken and I don’t always agree on everything, but I think he’s done a real good job,” Clarke said, noting his concerns about new regulations that will allow for greater concentrations of lead and arsenic in deep soils.

“I think his real legacy will be regulatory reform, in which he streamlined state regulations to provide certainty to the business community, protection to the environment, and wetlands restoration work,” Clarke said. “He had a series of principles that gave the environmental community some confidence that the regulations would protect the environment and not just make permitting easier for the development community.”

He noted Cash may have less than a year to put his stamp on the agency and that he will face urgent questions about how to deal with coastal erosion and sea-level rise.

“I’m eager to see what he can accomplish,” Clarke said.

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.
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