For LaTourette, top job at DEP is logical next step in notable career

His 20 years of experience are just one aspect of an impressive resume

Shawn LaTourette. (File photo)

There are a number of reasons why Shawn LaTourette is an ideal candidate to be the next commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

  • He was born and raised in New Jersey;
  • He graduated magna cum laude from Rutgers University and earned his law degree summa cum laude from Rutgers Law School, where he was the class salutatorian;
  • He was the recipient of multiple environmental and governance awards at Rutgers and published scholarship on environmental law, natural resource damage and climate issues;
  • He specialized in protecting the rights of victims of toxic injuries while also advising infrastructure, transportation, energy, and other industries on compliance with state and federal environmental laws and policies before entering public service.

Then there’s this: LaTourette began his career partnering with the “Erin Brockovich law firm to organize and defend New Jersey communities whose drinking water was contaminated by petrochemicals. It’s tough to top that.

LaTourette, who first joined DEP as chief legal and regulatory policy adviser to Commissioner Catherine McCabe in 2018 — before becoming DEP’s chief of staff in 2019, deputy commissioner in 2020 and acting commissioner earlier this year — was formally nominated to get the top job by Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday afternoon.

LaTourette, who was responsible for running the operations of DEP while notably leading efforts to craft the reforms necessary to advance the administration’s climate change and environmental justice priorities, said he was honored to be selected.

“To serve the people of New Jersey as commissioner of environmental protection is an honor beyond any I could have imagined, and I am grateful to Gov. Murphy for his outstanding environmental leadership, and his confidence in mine,” he said.

“New Jersey has no shortage of environmental challenges — from confronting the climate crisis to modernizing our water infrastructure — challenges that also present us with an incredible opportunity to grow our economy, lift our people and further the promise of environmental justice.

“NJDEP is charting a new course for the future in our great state, with a stronger, more just environment at its center. I am eager to lead the department in supporting Gov. Murphy in his vision to make New Jersey a national model for its commitment to a more resilient, fairer, greener future for everyone.”

Murphy said LaTourette is the ideal successor to McCabe, who announced her retirement in January.

“The decisions made by the Department of Environmental Protection are not just important for today, but will have far-reaching impacts across generations,” he said. “The work we do now for cleaner air and water, to meaningfully combat climate change, to ensure that every community is treated with dignity and respect and that the principles of environmental justice serve us every day, will far outlive us all.

“Shawn’s passion for environmental protection, coupled with his extensive knowledge on climate, energy and infrastructure, will help build an environmental legacy that exemplifies these principles. I am confident that, with Shawn’s leadership, we will create a cleaner, more sustainable New Jersey that we are proud to leave for future generations.”

Prior to joining the Murphy administration, LaTourette was a director of the Environmental Law Department at Gibbons P.C., where he focused on brownfields redevelopment projects and litigated environmental cases in state and federal court.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said that experience will serve him well.

“New Jersey has taken a leading role in the legal fight for environmental justice, and that’s because of the close working relationship between our office and Shawn’s team at DEP,” he said.

“We share a total commitment to holding polluters accountable and making them pay for the destruction they caused. As we continue this fight for clean air and clean water, I couldn’t ask for a better partner than Shawn.”

A devoted advocate for equality of all people, LaTourette was elected to serve as chair of the LGBTQ Rights Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, completing his term in 2020, and will be the first openly gay commissioner of environmental protection in the nation. A Middlesex County native, LaTourette resides in Highland Park with his partner and twin daughters.