US Senate Confirms Radhika Fox to Lead EPA Office of Water

June 16, 2021

In a vote of 55-43, the former US Water Alliance CEO is the first woman of color and first person of Asian heritage to lead the EPA Office of Water

In a vote of 55-43, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Radhika Fox to the position of Assistant Administrator for the U.S. EPA Office of Water June 16, 2021.

Prior to the vote, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware) spoke in support of confirming Fox to the office.

"Ms. Fox brings with her an impressive professional record of service and accomplishments, spanning over two decades, working on water issues at the local, state and federal level,' Caper said. "We have the opportunity today to confirm a truly gifted leader and put her to work serving our country right away."

Fox had been appointed as assistant deputy director for the office by President Joe Biden shortly after he had been sworn into office as President. Last month, the U.S. Senate held a hearing on her nomination, where Fox answered questions about Waters of the United States, lead contamination, per- and polyflouralkyl substances (PFAS) and more.

During that hearing, Fox opened with a statement about her grandparents, who relied on drinking water wells for drinking water and pit latrines for wastewater management in rural India. She pointed to that family history as adding additional meaning and value to her accomplishments in the water and wastewater industry throughout her career.

“We can’t make policy sitting behind a desk in Washington, D.C.,” Fox said during the hearing. “We have to actively engage with all who are impacted by our decisions, whether it’s water utilities, farmers and ranchers, community orgs, environmental groups, states, tribes, local officials and many, many others.”

With this confirmation, Fox has become the first woman of color and first individual of Asian heritage to be both nominated and confirmed to lead the EPA Office of Water.

Prior to her role with the EPA, Fox was the CEO for the US Water Alliance an educational non-profit, which started in 2008 with the goal to unite people and policy for one water sustainability. Prior to that role had also been the director for the Value of Water Coalition, which shares a similar mission, and she had worked in government affairs for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Just one day prior to being confirmed, during the American Water Works Association ACE21 Virtual Show, Fox joined AWWA CEO David LaFrance for a discussion on the future of water in the U.S., policy considerations for the agency, and trends seen throughout the industry. (Read our live thread here)

Fox reiterated a statement she has made several times since joining the U.S. EPA, and one that has become a statement gaining momentum in the industry.

"This really feels like water's moment," Fox said. "If you had told me 6 months ago that we would have a President and Vice President making the most historical for investment in my life time [in infrastructure]... This is truly water's moment. The sector has worked so hard for so long for this."

She also talked about the importance of affordability during that discussion, an issue she also touched on during her nomination hearing. She said discussions on how we move forward with water must run parallel to discussions on affordability because they are so intricately linked to each other. 

As for policy regarding Waters of the United States and the revised Lead & Copper Rule, Fox shared a similar message regarding both: discussions with those directly impacted by these rules are needed so the agency can understand the issues from as many perspectives as possible. She said it is important to her, the agency, EPA Administrator Michael Regan and to the Presidential administration, that the rules that EPA create endure and stand the test of time.

These rules, she continued, are foundational to water policy in the country. As such, it is paramount that what is instituted not be revisited over and over again. By making something that will last, utilities can gain clarity and certainty regarding compliance and regulations. She said that clarity also then extends to the general public who can better understand the safety and cleanliness of their water.

Fox also touched on the research EPA is conducting on PFAS, funding and financing programs available through EPA, WIFIA, and more. View our Live Tweet thread or watch the full session on the AWWA ACE21 website.

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