Energy & Environment

Senate confirms Biden’s pick to lead White House environmental council

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The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Brenda Mallory to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which advises the president on issues such as environmental justice and conserving oceans, lands and wildlife.

The upper chamber approved Mallory’s nomination in a 53-45 vote, with three Republicans voting with Democrats to back her: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Rob Portman (Ohio).

Mallory, who served as the council’s top lawyer under the Obama administration, will be the first Black leader of the CEQ.

The council is in charge of implementing a bedrock environmental law called the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

The implementation of NEPA, which requires environmental analyses ahead of projects such as pipelines, highways and drilling on public lands, was rolled back under the Trump administration.

Mallory may seek to reverse changes made by the prior administration, which included reducing the amount of time environmental reviews take. 

“The previous administration, sadly, repeatedly compromised public health and environmental quality for the sake of less red tape,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said in a floor speech ahead of the vote. “One of the many tasks ahead for the next CEQ chair will be to get us back on track, to harmonize our efforts to address the climate crisis, safeguard public health, and to ensure we’re treating others the way we want to be treated.”

Carper, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, added that Mallory is “the kind of experienced, dedicated public servant that we need to lead CEQ.”

At the time of a procedural vote on her nomination last month, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va) raised concerns that Mallory could work to slow construction projects. 

“Ms. Mallory has stood against the long-overdue reforms of environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act,” said Capito, the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works panel.

Mallory also worked at the Environmental Protection Agency for more than a decade.

In a tweet after the vote, Mallory thanked the Senate for voting to confirm her.

“Ready to get to work on behalf of the American people to confront climate change, pursue environmental justice, help conserve our nation’s lands and waters, and build a clean energy future,” she tweeted.

Updated at 4:52 p.m.

Tags Biden climate policy Brenda Mallory climate confirmation Council on Environmental Quality Environment Lindsey Graham Rob Portman Shelley Moore Capito Susan Collins Tom Carper

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