Linda Fisher ’82: Shaping America’s Policy
While working as a legislative aide for two congressmen in Washington, D.C., Linda Fisher ’82 got her first taste of environmental law. She had just received her undergraduate degree, and she knew it was an area that she enjoyed. But, she admits, it was not a field in which she intended to center her entire career.
But after more than a decade at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several years in the private sector, Fisher has garnered an impressive amount of experience helping to change behaviors that could damage the environment.
“I thought I wanted to run for office someday so, during law school, I took the time to work on a few campaigns,” she said. “But being in Columbus made me realize that I really didn’t like campaigning; what I loved was policy.”
Environmental policies are some of the most fascinating to Fisher because of the long-term positive impacts that are associated with the issues on which she has had the chance to work.
“I’ve always thought it was interesting,” she said. “These policies shape behavior, usually corporate behavior, and result in good social outcomes. That’s what I truly enjoy about it.”
An Upper Arlington native, Fisher received her bachelor’s degree from Miami University and also received her master’s of business administration from George Washington University. She has two children, ages 13 and 14.
Fisher is currently the vice president and chief sustainability officer for DuPont, where she began working in 2004. She is responsible for advancing DuPont’s progress in achieving sustainable growth; and the company’s safety, environmental and health programs, product stewardship programs, global regulatory affairs, and government and public affairs.
Fisher said that, oddly enough, her position at DuPont allows for her to be more of an advocate for legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than working for the EPA under the Bush Administration. “In some ways we can do a lot here,” she said. “As a large global corporation, we can push for action on particular issues that we feel important, and people listen.”
But, she said, the time she spent working at the EPA was among the most rewarding of her career. Most recently, she was the deputy administrator of the agency, and also held positions of EPA assistant administrator – Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, EPA assistant administrator – Office of Policy, Planning and Evaluation, and chief of staff to the EPA administrator.
She was appointed to positions within the EPA by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Fisher stopped working at the EPA in 1993 and was reappointed in 2001. During the interim, she was “of counsel” at Latham & Watkins in Washington, D.C and then vice president of government affairs for Monsanto, an agricultural biotechnology corporation.
Fisher is proud of several successful projects she worked on over the years, but she admitted that a few stood out over others. She mentioned her involvement in drafting the 1986 amendments to the Superfund legislation (the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act); drafting the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990; and strengthening laws and policies regarding pesticide regulations.
And her work is far from done.
The next several years should include major initiatives involving environmental law, she said. Fisher expects the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress to address climate change, and amend the Toxic Substances Control Act, which has not undergone any major revisions since being passed in 1976.
Fisher has also earned her way onto several nonprofit organizations involving environmental issues. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Environmental Law Institute, RESOLVE, and Resources for the Future, and on the Board of Trustees for the National Parks Foundation. She is also on the Board of Directors of Covanta Holdings, a publicly traded company.
In her position at Dupont and as a part of her nonprofit work, Fisher said that she is committed to doing all that is possible to change global warming trends. She noted that DuPont was one of the founding members of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a group of businesses and leading environmental organizations that have joined forces to call on the federal government to enact legislation to require significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.
“The challenge of climate change is complex, we have to develop a program that will address the environmental issues, but do it in a way that promotes energy efficiency and the development of new cleaner energy sources and minimizes the negative impact on the economy and,” she said. “It is important to all of us that we get it right.”