: Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: The White House https://www.whitehouse.gov/ceq/chair-brenda-mallory/

Brenda Mallory

  • Was nominated by President-elect Joe Biden to chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality in Dec. 2020
  • Claims that "underserved communities" suffer from "environmental injustice"
  • Was involved in implementing the Biden administration’s Justice40 Initiative
  • Helped implement the Biden administration’s “America the Beautiful” Initiative

Brenda Mallory was born on September 14, 1957 in Waterbury, Connecticut. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in American History and Sociology from Yale University in 1979, and then went on to graduate from Columbia University Law School in 1983.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Mallory worked as an attorney for the Connecticut-based law firm of Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, where she specialized in insurance defense and commercial litigation from 1983-1985. She subsequently served as an Associate at an environmental law firm called Beveridge and Diamond in Washington, D.C. from 1985-1991, and then was a Director there from 1991-2000. During her tenure as Director, Mallory oversaw litigation strategies for major energy and commercial development projects that needed federal approval due to environmental concerns.

From 2000-2002, Mallory wrote federal regulations as an Environmental Protection Specialist with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). After a brief stint in 2002 as the EPA’s Representative for the White House Task Force on Energy Project Streamlining, Mallory became an Associate Deputy General Counsel at the EPA in 2003. She then served as the agency’s Principal Deputy General Counsel from 2010-2014. Next, Mallory held the post of General Counsel for the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) from April 2014 to January 2017, at which point the Obama administration drew to a close.

Mallory subsequently served as a Visiting Scholar at the Environmental Law Institute from January to March of 2017; Executive Director and Senior Counsel at the Conservation Litigation Project from April 2017 to September 2020; and Director of Regulatory Policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center from September 2020 to April 2021.

In December 2020, President-elect Joe Biden nominated Mallory to become Chair of the White House CEQ, a role in which she would advise the President on environmental and natural resource policies. In an interview with the Reuters news service, Mallory made clear her opposition to a Trump administration policy that, for the purpose of obtaining faster and more efficient environmental reviews of energy and other projects, had limited the extent to which government agencies were required to consider the possible climate/pollution impacts which those projects might have. “I am hoping at top of the priority list for CEQ is addressing changes Trump made to how CEQ implements NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act]” she said.

Following a 54-45 vote in the U.S. Senate, Mallory was confirmed as CEQ Chair on April 14, 2021. Upon her confirmation, Mallory said: “By helping forge unity of purpose — across communities, across the country, and across government — CEQ will help our nation rise to the environmental challenges of our time, from climate change and the nature crisis to the environmental injustices that have plagued our country for too long.”

During “Earth Week” in April 2022, Mallory reaffirmed the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to aligning environmental concerns with socioeconomic and racial considerations: “For too long in this country, communities of color and low-income communities have not been given a voice in decisions that affect their health and well-being, contributing to dangerous levels of pollution being concentrated in places where many Americans live, work, and play.”

Later that month, the Biden White House announced its partnership with Canada to promote “greening government operations” in a global push to fight climate change. “Efforts include using cleaner energy sources, moving to zero-emission vehicles, greening their procurement, and pursuing green and resilient infrastructure,” the administration stated. Added Mallory: “Confronting the climate crisis requires unprecedented cooperation across the globe to meet the urgency science requires.”

Together with Office of Management & Budget Director Shalanda Young and National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, Mallory co-authored a July 2021 memorandum outlining the implementation of the Biden administration’s Justice40 Initiative. “Justice40 is a whole-of-government effort to ensure that Federal agencies work with states and local communities to make good on President Biden’s promise to deliver at least 40 percent of the overall benefits from Federal investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities,” they explained. Moreover, the memorandum offered extensive guidelines to federal agencies and department heads for how to carry out the administration’s goal of “securing environmental justice and spurring economic opportunity for disadvantaged communities that have been historically marginalized and overburdened by pollution and underinvestment in housing, transportation, water and wastewater infrastructure, and health care.”

Among the leftist organizations that offered praise for the Justice40 Initiative were: the Center for American Progress, Earthjustice, the League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

On August 10, 2021, the White House officially launched an America the Beautiful Interagency Working Group to oversee the implementation of the Biden administration’s “America the Beautiful” Initiative. The plan, which aimed to aggressively “conserve and restore at least 30 percent of our nation’s lands and waters by 2030,” would be directed jointly by Mallory, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

As a sign of her support for the America the Beautiful Initiative, Mallory visited the Jennie Reed Elementary schoolyard in Tacoma, Washington in October 2021 to advocate for the federal government’s “commitment to reducing inequitable access to parks and green spaces.” Accompanied by Democrat Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland, Mallory said: “We know that the impacts of the climate crisis are felt more acutely by low-income communities and communities of color. As part of our efforts to reduce these impacts, we must take steps to create safe outdoor opportunities in nature-deprived communities, while increasing outdoor recreation access. Projects like those happening here at the Reed Elementary Green Schoolyard embody the principles of the [America] the Beautiful Initiative and are examples of the types of partnerships we need to increase green spaces in a just and equitable way for all.”

Also while she was in Washington state, Mallory met with representatives of Native American groups to discuss Biden administration priorities like “salmon preservation and restoration.” “Tribal Nations have stewarded these lands since time immemorial and their voices and expertise on these issues are critical,” she emphasized after meeting with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Mallory also reassured the tribal leaders that the “investments” under President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda would “bolster the President’s commitment to support Tribal sovereignty and self-governance.” Moreover, according to the Biden White House, Mallory discussed “the paramount importance of improving engagement with Tribal and indigenous communities on the care and management of public lands and waters, protecting sacred and ceremonial sites, and upholding trust and treaty rights.”

The following month, the Biden White House announced its plan for “elevating Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK) in federal scientific and policy processes.” “ITEK,” the administration explained, “is a body of observations, oral and written knowledge, practices, and beliefs that promotes environmental sustainability and the responsible stewardship of natural resources through relationships between humans and environmental systems. It is applied to phenomena across biological, physical, cultural and spiritual systems.”

On February 23, 2022, Mallory issued a statement opposing the U.S. Postal Service’s decision to move “toward procuring an overwhelming gasoline-powered delivery fleet for its Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDV).” Citing EPA concerns, Mallory said: “The Postal Service’s continuing push toward buying a mostly gas-powered fleet for the next thirty years is out of touch with technology and puts the agency at a major disadvantage to its competitors, who are all going electric.”

Commemorating Black History Month in early March 2022, Mallory delivered a formal statement on “Creating a More Just, Healthy, and Equitable Future.” Reflecting upon the historical injustices that African Americans had experienced, she asserted: “It is this history that inspires me — the first African American to serve as Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) — to approach the work I do every day in the Biden-Harris Administration with determination. It is also this history that reminds me of the responsibility that we have to confront injustice. For me, that starts with fighting for the clean air and clean water that, for millions of Americans, is not yet a reality.”

In the same statement, Mallory lauded the Justice40 Initiative and other Biden administration policies for their “commitment to put the interests of communities that are overburdened by pollution and underserved by their government at the center of our environmental policy.” She praised President Biden not only for “working to alleviate the pollution and climate change risks that disproportionately fall on low-income communities and communities of color,” but also for confronting “a legacy of underinvestment in communities that, for too long, have been left behind.” Moreover, Mallory promoted the administration’s new “Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool,” which would help the federal government to “identify [with specificity] which communities have been marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.”

On May 31, 2022, the Biden administration announced the establishment of a new Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) within the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Climate Change and Health Equity. Under the direction of HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine, OEJ’s mission would be to “better protect the health of disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations on the frontline of pollution and other environmental health issues.” Said Mallory: “By creating this new office and prioritizing environmental justice at HHS, Secretary Becerra is undertaking the type of bold institutional reform that is desperately needed to deliver clean air and clean water for all communities. Today’s announcement is a key step toward confronting environmental injustice — in all of its heartbreaking forms — with the full force and commitment of the Federal government.”