WASHINGTON — President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has chosen Brenda Mallory, an environmental lawyer who spent more than 15 years working in the federal government under both Republican and Democratic presidents, to lead the Council on Environmental Quality, according to two people close to the Biden transition team.
The council is expected to expand its focus on issues of environmental justice under Ms. Mallory in addition to its traditional role of coordinating environment policy throughout the government, other people close to the presidential transition said.
Ms. Mallory, who currently serves as the director of regulatory policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center, a watchdog group, has worked on both pollution and land conservation issues throughout her career, including helping to create new national monuments under the Obama administration and fighting the dismantlement of those monuments under the Trump administration.
“Biden is nominating substantive experts, people who can hit the ground running from day one, who know the office for which they have been nominated and particularly know how it has to work with other offices,” said Ted Boling, a partner at the law firm Perkins Coie who worked at Council on Environmental Quality in several positions over more than a decade.
The council, a division of the office of the president, tends to play a behind-the-scenes role in federal environmental policy and its administrators are typically less prominent than ones who lead major agencies like the Interior Department of the Environmental Protection Agency.
But Mr. Biden has pledged to make addressing racial disparities in environmental policies a core part of his climate change agenda, potentially giving the council a beefed-up mission in that and other areas.
The Climate 21 Project, a blueprint from more than 150 former government officials laying out advice for a governmentwide response to climate change, identified the Council on Environmental Quality as “best suited to elevate environmental justice to the White House and to lead the agenda on climate change resilience.”
The group recommended the Biden administration update a Clinton-era executive order on environmental justice to formalize the agency’s role in convening environmental justice leaders and “advancing EJ across the federal government.”
A graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School, Ms. Mallory started her career in private practice before joining the federal government in 2000. She spent more than 15 years at various positions within the Environmental Protection Agency, rising to principal deputy general counsel, the ranking career position in that office. During the Obama administration she served as the general counsel for the Council on Environmental Quality.
She later went on to work as the executive director and senior counsel for the Conservation Litigation Project, which works to protect public lands, before joining the Southern Environmental Law Center.