Secretary Yana Garcia joins CalEPA at pivotal moment for climate and environmental justice

(en español)

For Immediate Release:
Sept. 2, 2022

Media Contact:
Erin Curtis, CalEPA Deputy Secretary for Communications and External Affairs
916-634-8428 | erin.curtis@calepa.ca.gov


SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Yana Garcia today assumed her new role as Secretary at California’s Environmental Protection Agency, the state cabinet-level agency established in 1991 to restore, protect and enhance the environment and to ensure public health, environmental quality and economic vitality.  

Garcia previously served in various leadership roles at CalEPA focused on environmental justice and tribal affairs. Most recently, since 2021, Garcia served as Special Assistant Attorney General, where she advised Attorney General Rob Bonta on the California Department of Justice’s Environmental, Natural Resources Law, and Land Use matters, including climate, transportation, energy, and housing. 

“I am thrilled to rejoin the incredible team at CalEPA at such a pivotal moment. While the challenges ahead of us are staggering, our mission has never been more important. With California on the front lines of climate change, our work to protect the environment and safeguard public health while centering environmental justice is more critical than ever – and I’m eager to get started,” said Secretary Garcia.    

Gov. Gavin Newson appointed Garcia, 38, of Oakland, as California’s new Secretary for Environmental Protection on Aug. 12. Garcia was sworn in on Thursday. The position requires Senate confirmation. 

“Yana’s deep connection to communities, her strong track record as an environmental attorney in holding polluters accountable, and her commitment to bringing diverse interests together make her uniquely matched to the challenges facing California,” said Governor Newsom when announcing her appointment. “She is a strategic and compassionate leader who played a central role in helping communities gain access to safe and affordable drinking water. Yana is known nationally as a groundbreaking environmentalist who has lifted up the voices of tribal nations, U.S.-Mexico border communities, and those struggling on the frontlines of the battle for environmental justice. I look forward to working with Yana to implement our ambitious environmental agenda with the knowledge that she is resolute in her commitment to ensuring a California for all.” 

Garcia served as Deputy Secretary for Environmental Justice, Tribal Affairs and Border Relations at CalEPA from 2019 to 2021, and as CalEPA’s Assistant Secretary for Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs from 2017 to 2019.  

During her tenure at CalEPA, Garcia led three Environmental Justice Task Force initiatives in the communities of Pomona, Imperial County and Stockton. CalEPA’s Environmental Justice Task Force is dedicated to improving compliance and enforcement of environmental laws in communities that are disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution and vulnerable to its effects. She also helped deliver more than $1 million in Environmental Justice Small Grants to 28 organizations to combat pollution, improve health outcomes and increase public engagement in some of California’s most pollution-burdened communities.  

Prior to her state service, Garcia litigated environmental cases on behalf of several client groups across the state and across the country as an attorney at Earthjustice in the California regional office in San Francisco. Garcia was also a staff attorney at Communities for a Better Environment, serving in Huntington Park and Oakland. Her legal practice areas have focused on environmental justice issues, civil rights, land use, toxics and chemical disclosure, oil and gas extraction, and crude transport. Between 2011 and 2012, Garcia served as a legal research attorney at the San Francisco Superior Court’s Civil Division, Office of the Presiding Judge. 

Prior to practicing law, Yana worked on various environmental justice and civil rights projects aimed at achieving equitable access to clean air, clean water, and sustainable food and energy systems in the states of Texas, New Mexico and Massachusetts.  

Garcia holds a degree in politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a law degree from Northeastern University School of Law.  

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“Yana’s deep connection to communities, her strong track record as an environmental attorney in holding polluters accountable, and her commitment to bringing diverse interests together make her uniquely matched to the challenges facing California.

“She is a strategic and compassionate leader who played a central role in helping communities gain access to safe and affordable drinking water. Yana is known nationally as a groundbreaking environmentalist who has lifted up the voices of tribal nations, U.S.-Mexico border communities, and those struggling on the frontlines of the battle for environmental justice. I look forward to working with Yana to implement our ambitious environmental agenda with the knowledge that she is resolute in her commitment to ensuring a California for all.”

Gavin Newsom

California Governor

“I am thrilled to rejoin the incredible team at CalEPA at such a pivotal moment. While the challenges ahead of us are staggering, our mission has never been more important. With California on the front lines of climate change, our work to protect the environment and safeguard public health while centering environmental justice is more critical than ever – and I’m eager to get started.

Yana Garcia

California Secretary for Environmental Protection

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