Gov. Phil Scott has appointed John Beling as the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, which oversees the state’s air quality, water quality and waste programs.
Beling took over as interim commissioner on April 15 after Peter Walke resigned from the post. Walke, who was commissioner for two years, is now managing director of Efficiency Vermont, a nonprofit energy efficiency utility.
Previously, Beling was general counsel for the Department of Environmental Conservation, and was an attorney in several federal and state governmental agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency, attorneys general in Vermont and Massachusetts, Vermont’s Department of Public Service and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
The East Montpelier resident grew up in Framingham, Mass., and attended Tufts University and St. John’s University School of Law.
In his new role, Beling will oversee 300 people who work throughout the department’s various divisions.
“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 a really important job, 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 so committed to what they're doing.”
The department is one of three within the Agency of Natural Resources. The others are the Fish & Wildlife Department and the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.
Beling named a number of priorities in his work as commissioner. The department has been allocated an unprecedented amount of federal money for a variety of infrastructure projects, and the first order of business will be the deployment of that money, he said.
He’ll help implement Vermont’s new environmental justice law, continue to assess the state’s response to PFAS — particularly in light of new health advisories from the Environmental Protection Agency — and work to make headway in addressing the harmful contaminant PCBs in schools.
“It's an enormous book of work, and it's sort of taking the wheel while the vehicle’s traveling down the highway at what feels like, right now, about 80 miles an hour,” said Julie Moore, secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources. “To have somebody who has that background and understands these programs — I am grateful he was willing to step into this role.”
Walke, who preceded Beling as commissioner, voiced strong support for his successor.
“Vermont has an incredible number of opportunities and challenges in front of us on the environmental front,” he said. “John's vast knowledge and experience working across a number of environmental issues really will put him in a good place to be successful as commissioner.”
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