Most of us are breathing a sigh of relief now that our nation’s leader isn’t a man who serves Big Macs and Coca-Cola to White House guests at formal dinner parties, but now that President Biden is appointing new cabinet members, it’s worth taking a look at a few of these appointments and seeing how they’ll impact the outdoors. Let’s break it down.
Brenda Mallory – White House Council on Environmental Quality
Brenda Mallory, currently Director of Regulatory Policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) was chosen by Biden to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The CEQ is the board charged with reviewing the potential environmental impacts of various industrial projects: pipelines, highways, etc. According to the White House website, the CEQ advises the President and develops policies on environmental justice, federal sustainability, public lands, oceans, and wildlife conservation, among other areas.
Mallory was previously the general counsel of the CEQ under Obama, and worked for the EPA before that, so she’s definitely qualified for the role. As the head of the CEQ, Mallory will be responsible for repairing and implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a wide-reaching environmental law enacted in ‘69, which was gutted by the Trump Administration over the last four years. All told, she’s a veteran in the environmental movement who appears vetted for the role and well-placed to help protect natural land.
John Kerry – Special Presidential Envoy on Climate Change
Kerry, formerly Secretary of State under Obama, is filling a new position, Special Presidential Envoy on Climate Change. He’ll sit on the National Security Council, doesn’t need a Senate confirmation, and will essentially have to go around and represent the US in the climate sphere, rebuilding our credibility in the international table after the Trump Administration. A career diplomat, formerly Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry is well-qualified for this role. This year he’ll mainly be focused on preparing us for the Cop26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, a task which will require him to repair other nations’ trust in the US and in our commitment to solving the climate change crisis.
Michael Regan – Administrator of Environmental Protection Agency
Regan worked for the EPA as an air quality specialist under Clinton in the 90s, then worked for eight years for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) as their vice president for clean energy and a Southeast regional director. EDF President Fred Krupp had this to say about Regan in light of his nomination: In North Carolina, as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality for the past four years, he has led a large and complex agency with skill, openness to new ideas and a determination to achieve real results for the people of his state. Michael took over during a difficult time in the agency’s history, after years of budget cutting and turmoil. Michael’s work led to the largest excavation of toxic coal ash in the nation’s history. He successfully tackled the PFAS pollution from Chemours, leading to a 99% reduction in discharges and a major clean up. Michael’s collaborative approach has allowed him to build durable policies that promote clean air and clean water alongside a strong economy. The EPA appointee is perhaps the most critical player in mitigating our nation’s climate impact, and given his extensive history tackling air pollution problems on a national scale, Regan seems like an excellent candidate for the task.
Representative Deb Haaland – Secretary of the Interior
Haaland, if confirmed, will become the first Native American Secretary of the Interior. Her appointment is a key position which not only gives her management of 480 million acres, but handles the federal government’s relationship with the 500+ Tribal Nations around the United States. As a result, Haaland’s appointment hopefully will see the end of the agency’s long history of overlooking Native American concerns, and promote an increased focus on justice for all America’s indigenous populations. Haaland is a long-time climate and indigenous rights advocate and she seems like a top-notch choice for Secretary of the Interior.
Gina McCarthy – Climate Czar
McCarthy, the current CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, was previously Obama’s second EPA chief. She has been appointed to manage domestic climate policy for the incoming administration, a new role Biden is calling “climate czar.” McCarthy will also not need to have Senate confirmation, and her role will be overseeing the overall approach taken on climate change matters by the White House. Part of this will be making sure Biden is on track to meet his major goal to get the US to net-zero emissions by 2050. As head of the EPA under Obama, McCarthy was critical in forming the original Paris Climate Accord and helped create landmark Obama-era policies, such as the Clean Power Plan. As climate czar, she seems well-poised to continue her legacy of environmental protection.