Governor Jerry Brown appointed Mark Nechodom director in December 2011, following his dismissal of Derek Chernow from the post over his reluctance to grant oil and gas drilling permits amid a controversy over the use of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. Nechodom is married to California Democratic Secretary of State Debra Bowen.
Nechodom received his bachelor's degree in political and social thought from World College West in 1982. He went on to earn a doctorate from the University of California, Santa Cruz's History of Consciousness program, completing his studies on political science, environmental policy and geography in 1998. Before finishing his dissertation, he helped establish the Natural Resources Policy and Education Program at California State University, Sacramento and the Land Use and Natural Resources Program at the University of California, Davis.
Since getting his Ph.D., Nechodom has worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, starting as a scientist at the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station in 1998. He worked there for the next decade, his research subjects including biomass fuel production and carbon emissions in forest ecosystems. He also served as a policy advisor on climate change from 2006 until his move to the deputy director position at the new Office of Environmental Markets in 2008.
The Office of Environmental Markets (previously the Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets) was established to develop the infrastructure for environmental benefits—carbon sequestration and the preservation of biodiversity, for example—to be consistently valued and traded by landowners. Nechodom became acting director of the office in 2010 before moving on to serve as senior advisor to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on environmental market policy.
Coming on the heels of Chernow's and DOGGR chief Miller's ouster for presiding over a backlog of oil and gas permit applications, Nechodom's appointment has earned ire in some corners. Calitics's Dan Bacher called it “a move that reeks of political cronyism and demonstrates the inordinate power of the oil industry.”
Some of those considering Nechodom's record rather than the circumstances of his appointment come to a different conclusion. “No one understands more than Mark Nechodom about how to bring new revenue and tools to working landscapes . . . while helping California meet environmental, wildlife and conservation goals,” an Environmental Defense Fund release states.