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Brenda Mallory Confirmed for CEQ

Why the new Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality is big news for our ocean

Offshore wind
Offshore wind farm © Adobe Stock

Earlier this week, our ocean got a new champion. Brenda Mallory was confirmed by the Senate as Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and will serve as one of the President’s top advisors on the environment. That’s big (and exciting!) news for our ocean.

Mallory brings a wealth of experience to the CEQ role, including more than 20 years of public service working under both Democrat and Republican administrations. Under President Obama, Mallory served in many leadership positions, including at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) where she was Associate Deputy General Counsel for water and waste issues, and also served as EPA’s representative to the White House task force on renewable energy reviews and permitting. Mallory also served as the General Counsel for CEQ during the Obama administration, helping support the CEQ’s work to cut pollution and build out renewable energy. Mallory will be able to use this experience to address the issues facing our ocean at the CEQ and return CEQ to its role in putting the health of local communities and our environment first.

Perhaps one of the most important responsibilities Mallory will hold at CEQ is implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires the government to consider the environmental and climate impacts of its actions, like permitting a large bridge, an offshore wind farm or a new coal plant. This includes analyzing and publicly disclosing the potential harm to ecosystems and communities. NEPA also requires that federal agencies involve local communities so decisions are made with their interests in mind, and so that alternative actions can be explored. Both of these tools are crucial for realizing environmental justice, ensuring that adverse human and environmental health impacts do not disproportionately impact low-income, Tribal, Indigenous and minority communities.

During the Trump administration, the rules implementing NEPA were weakened considerably, threatening your voices and our communities’ right to be involved. Now, with Chair Mallory at the helm, we hope the CEQ will begin the process of restoring the bedrock NEPA rules designed to protect our environment, public health and vulnerable communities.

Chair Mallory and CEQ will also play a convening and facilitating role among federal agencies on the actions that happen in our ocean. Take the Ocean Policy Committee (OPC), for example. CEQ, along with the Office of Science Technology Policy, serves as co-chairs of the OPC. The OPC coordinates high-level administration ocean and coastal-related priorities and guides agencies to work together on common goals. The OPC also helps coordinate ocean resource management policy and coordinates ocean science and technology. With the recent announcement by the Biden-Harris administration to substantially increase offshore wind power by 2030, Chair Mallory and the OPC will be in a great position to maximize coordination across agencies to ensure this is advanced efficiently and sustainably.

The Biden-Harris administration has a great opportunity to build a thriving economy while addressing climate change and protecting our ocean and coastal communities and ecosystems.  CEQ is in a great position to ensure that this is done equitably and we look forward to working with Chair Mallory to achieve these goals.

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