Brenda Mallory, President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality, won Senate confirmation on Wednesday.
In her new role, Mallory will oversee an office that has already started reviewing changes the Trump administration undertook to relax environmental permitting under the National Environmental Policy Act for large projects, such as highways and bridges.
Mallory was approved by a 53-45 vote. She will be the CEQ’s first Black leader.
One of her first priorities will be to either navigate a path through the Trump-era changes or spearhead a rewrite of them.
The 2020 changes limit the scope of agency permit reviews, more narrowly define which projects warrant scrutiny, and strike down a requirement that agencies must consider a project’s cumulative effects on the environment—a phrase that has been widely interpreted as referring to climate change.
The Biden team has given few signs about its plans for changing the NEPA rules, apart from saying it’s reviewing the Trump administration’s changes.
Mallory was the agency’s general counsel during the Obama administration. Prior to that, she was the EPA’s acting general counsel and principal deputy general counsel.
During her March 3 confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Mallory said that, if approved, CEQ would do robust analyses of permits, but “in a way that ensures that we have significant infrastructure projects and that economic recovery, which is based on those projects, can occur.”
Republicans on the panel suggested that both Mallory and Janet McCabe, the administration’s nominee to become EPA deputy administrator, represented an elitist ideology disconnected from the concerns of rural and red states.
Nevertheless, the committee advanced Mallory’s nomination on March 24 by an 11-9 vote.
CEQ also advises the president on a range of broad policy areas, such as environmental justice, federal sustainability, public lands, oceans, and wildlife conservation.
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