Chairperson, Council on Environmental Quality – confirmation needed

Brenda Mallory

by Deedra Abboud in Political
January 12, 2021 0 comments

President-elect Joe Biden has selected Brenda Mallory to serve as Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality in the upcoming Biden administration.

If confirmed, Mallory will be the first African American to hold the position since its creation more than half a century ago.

The position: Assists with environmental policy implementation, working directly with the president and respective agencies involved.

Mallory grew up in Waterbury, Conn., where her father was the associate pastor of the Zion Baptist Church.

Rev. Thomas Mallory got his daughter a scholarship to Westover, a prestigious all-girls private school.

Brenda Mallory received her undergraduate degree from Yale University.

She grew more interested in policy issues over time, her interest stoked in part by working summers with her father when he chaired Waterbury’s Human Rights Commission.

Mallory got her law degree from Columbia University, where she was named a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar.

She lives in Rockville, Maryland with her husband and has three adult children.

Mallory has had leadership roles in national and local bar associations and other professional organizations.

She is a Fellow in the American College of Environmental Lawyers, a member of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Litigation Advocacy Committee, the Environmental Policy Innovation Center’s Advisory Committee, on the Advisory Council for Women in Conservation Leadership, and on the Board of Directors of the Environmental Law Institute and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

Brenda Mallory currently serves as Director of Regulatory Policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center. An experienced public servant and longtime champion of environmental stewardship, she has been an environmental leader at the intersection of law and policy in the public, private, and non-profit sectors for over 30 years.

Prior to her current role, Mallory served as Executive Director and Senior Counsel at the Conservation Litigation Project, where she led efforts to protect public lands and promote scholarship around emerging natural resources issues.

Mallory has served in both Democratic and Republican administrations, including as General Counsel on the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and as the Principal Deputy General Counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama-Biden Administration.

Mallory worked on the administration’s designation of nearly two dozen national monuments, including the 2016 creation of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Mallory worked with five Native American tribes to whom the area is sacred, not only to determine the monument’s boundaries but to be involved in its management. In 2017, Trump slashed the size of the monument’s territory by 85%, and this year, finalized the reduction in order to open the land to ranchers and fossil fuel extraction.

After leaving the White House in 2017, Mallory and a CEQ colleague, Marna McDermott, formed the Conservation Litigation Project. The Project convened legal academics “to coordinate scholarship and pro bono efforts in support of conservation and environmental protection,” law professor Krakoff writes.

Before EPA, she was a Director at the environmental law firm Beveridge and Diamond where she chaired the Natural Resources Practice Group. 

In 2019, after President Trump stoked racist chants of “send her back” against Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and other Congresswomen of color, Mallory wrote in a legal blog about her own experiences as Black woman, repeatedly being told that she did not belong, whether she was at a collegiate karate tournament in New Hampshire or at her home in a Maryland suburb.

“I have always viewed my experiences as evidence of isolated pockets of intolerance, with the mainstream arc of justice and equality bending in the right direction,” she wrote. “At a time when hateful and divisive rhetoric is growing and spewing from our highest political leaders, it is clear that the journey to our more perfect union and the best ideals for this nation will take more concerted efforts, vigilance, and focus.”

She and more than 140 of her African American colleagues from the Obama administration published an op-ed in the Washington Post in response to Trump’s “send her back” rhetoric, saying they refused to be marginalized and “sit idly by.”

“Expect to hear more from us,” the public letter ended. “We plan to leave this country better than we found it. This is our home.”

Biden has promised to make climate change a top priority, and Mallory’s appointment fleshes out a climate team with expertise in regulation, finance, diplomacy and environmental law.

Mallory would work with John Kerry, the National Security Council’s first special presidential envoy on climate; and Gina McCarthy, who would coordinate the domestic climate group within the White House. Biden’s top economic adviser, Brian Deese, also has experience crafting climate policy.

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