Gov.-elect Jeff Landry, at podium, introduces Aurelia Skipwith Giacometto, second from right, his choice to lead the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality at a press conference Nov. 15, 2023, at M.L. “Tigue” Moore at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Also pictured are Tim Hardy, part of Landry’s transition team, and the governor-elect’s wife, Sharon. (Julie O’Donoghue/Louisiana Illuminator)
LAFAYETTE — Gov.-elect Jeff Landry has picked a controversial member of former President Donald Trump’s administration to lead the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the state agency tasked with protecting residents’ health and safety from industrial facilities.
Aurelia Skipwith Giacometto will become the first Black woman ever to be the state environmental quality secretary in Louisiana’s history. The Indiana native was also the first Black woman to lead the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She served in that job from 2020 to early 2021.
“It’s important that our citizens live with good water and air quality,” Landry said during a Wednesday press conference announcing Giacometto’s selection. “It’s equally important that we protect jobs here in Louisiana.”
In her job for Trump, Giacometto managed the federal government’s endangered species program and international conservation efforts, Landry said. Prior to joining the federal government, she was an executive at Monsanto Co., now part of Bayer Corp., one of the world’s largest biotechnology and agricultural companies.
She also serves in a leadership role at several conservative organizations that push back on animal protections, mainstream environmental efforts and climate science.
Giacometto is active in groups that work to expand the rights of hunters and fisherman — and that expressly oppose environmental advocacy.
She was previously the chief executive officer of the International Order of T. Roosevelt and is a member of the Ducks Unlimited Conservation Policy Committee as well as the National Rifle Association’s Hunting and Conservation Committee, according to Landry’s team.
Giacometto is also on the board of Protect the Harvest, a nonprofit set up to push back against “radical” animal rights organizations such as The Humane Society of the United States, according to its own website. Additionally, she helps lead the Steamboat Institute, a Colorado nonprofit that is skeptical of mainstream climate change science.
Giacometto is a member of the advisory board of Colossal BioSciences, a genetic engineering company that, according to its website, looks to resurrect the woolly mammoth from extinction. The organization refers to itself as a “de-extinction” business.
Conservationists objected when Giacometto took over the federal fish and wildlife service for Trump, particularly because of her background in the agribusiness industry. Monsanto has had to settle several lawsuits with states over alleged pollution in recent years.
“In the midst of a mass extinction crisis, [U.S.] Senate Republicans just approved the most unqualified director in Fish and Wildlife Service history,” said Stephanie Kurose, an endangered species policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity in a 2019 press release about Giacometto’s federal confirmation.
“They seem to have no qualms about helping this anti-environment administration do even more damage to our nation’s natural heritage,” Kurose wrote.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Landry also indicated he would likely roll back some of the work Gov. John Bel Edwards has done to make Louisiana more “carbon neutral” and less dependent on fossil fuels.
“Trying to be carbon neutral at this time is extremely destructive on the economy and on the backs of working people,” Landry said. “Our petrochemical industry — our oil and gas industry — has lifted more people out of poverty globally than any other industry on the planet.”
“We want to be able to balance our environment and our industries and the jobs they create,” Landry said. “Worrying about one over the other is counterproductive to growing Louisiana.”
Giacometto’s late husband, Tony Giacometto, served in the Montana state legislature and was the chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana. He also worked as a lobbyist. The couple married in 2021 in New Orleans, according to one of his obituaries, and he died in 2022.
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