Council on Environmental Quality
Agency overview
Headquarters730 Jackson Place, Washington D.C.
Agency executive
Parent agencyExecutive Office of the President
Child agency
  • Office of the Federal Environmental Executive
WebsiteCouncil on Environmental Quality
Council on Environmental Quality building at 730 Jackson Place in Washington, D.C.

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is a division of the Executive Office of the President that coordinates federal environmental efforts in the United States and works closely with agencies and other White House offices on the development of environmental and energy policies and initiatives.

The first Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality was Russell E. Train, under President Richard Nixon. Since April 14, 2021, the chair is Brenda Mallory.


The CEQ produces an annual report for the president on the state of the environment, oversees federal agency implementation of environmental impact assessments, and acts as a referee when agencies disagree over the adequacy of such assessments. The National Environmental Policy Act tasks CEQ with ensuring that federal agencies meet their obligations under the Act, granting the body a significant role in environmental protection. Through inter-agency working groups and coordination with other EOP bodies, CEQ also works to advance the president's agenda on the environment, natural resources, and energy.



The United States Congress established the CEQ within the Executive Office of the President as part of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), during the Richard Nixon administration.[1] The CEQ was assigned additional responsibilities by the Environmental Quality Improvement Act of 1970. In enacting NEPA, Congress recognized that nearly all federal activities affect the environment in some way, and mandated that federal agencies must consider the environmental effects of their actions during their planning and decision-making processes. Under NEPA, CEQ works to balance environmental, economic, and social objectives in pursuit of NEPA's goal of "productive harmony" between humans and their environment.[2]

Clinton administration

President Bill Clinton appointed Kathleen McGinty and then George T. Frampton Jr. to chair the agency.

George W. Bush administration

President George W. Bush's CEQ chairman was James L. Connaughton, serving from 2001 to 2009. He was formerly a partner at the law firm Sidley Austin LLP,[3] where he lobbied to reduce government regulation on behalf of clients including the Aluminum Company of America and the Chemical Manufacturers Association of America.[4]

During the Bush administration, there were concerns over links between CEQ staffers and the industries it oversaw. BBC Environment Analyst Roger Harrabin described it as "a hard-line group of advisers with close links to the U.S. oil industry."[5] One CEQ chief of staff under President Bush, Philip Cooney, was previously a lobbyist employed by the American Petroleum Institute.[6] In June 2005, The New York Times published an internal CEQ memo provided by federal whistleblower Rick Piltz. The memo showed Cooney had repeatedly edited government climate reports in order to play down links between emissions and global warming. Cooney, who claimed he had been planning to resign for two years, resigned two days after the scandal broke "to spend more time with his family."[7] Immediately after resigning, Cooney went to work for ExxonMobil in their public affairs department.[8] In 2005 Piltz created a watchdog organization Climate Science Watch, a program of the Government Accountability Project.[9]

Obama administration

Under President Barack Obama, Nancy Sutley served as Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality from January 2009[10] until February 2014.[11][12] Following Sutley's departure, Michael Boots served as acting head of the Council until March 2015.[13] Christy Goldfuss was appointed to succeed Boots, and served in the same capacity, as "managing director", until the end of Obama's term, in January 2017.[14][15]

Trump administration

In October 2017, President Donald Trump nominated Kathleen Hartnett White, former chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, to be chair of CEQ.[16] However, her nomination was withdrawn in February 2018 as she did not garner enough support in the Senate.[17] CEQ chief of staff and acting head Mary Neumayr was nominated and considered in summer 2018 as chair. She was confirmed in January 2019.[18]

Biden administration

In December 2020, President Biden announced the selection of Brenda Mallory as the next Chair of the CEQ. On March 24, 2021, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works committee voted 11-9 to approve her appointment.[19] Mallory has prior experience with CEQ under the Obama Administration, having been the general counsel. At the time of her nomination, Mallory was the director of regulatory policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center, an advocacy and litigation group. [20] On April 14, 2021, Mallory was confirmed as the leader of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) by a 53-45 vote in the United States Senate.[21] She is the first African American chair of the CEQ.[22][23] Mallory took part in the virtual 2021 Leaders' Climate Summit.[24]


Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality of the
United States
Brenda Mallory
since April 16, 2021
Inaugural holderRussell Train
FormationNational Environmental Policy Act of 1969
WebsiteCouncil on Environmental Quality

The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality serves as the principal environmental policy adviser to the US President. In addition, CEQ reports annually to the President on the state of the environment; oversees federal agency implementation of the environmental impact assessment process; and acts as a referee when agencies disagree over the adequacy of such assessments. The Council coordinates federal environmental efforts and works closely with agencies and other White House offices in the development of environmental policies and initiatives.

Image Chair Term of Office President(s) served under
Russell Train 1969–1973 Richard Nixon
Russell Peterson 1973–1976 Richard Nixon & Gerald Ford
John Busterud 1976–1977 Gerald Ford
Charles Warren 1977–1979 Jimmy Carter
Gus Speth 1979–1981
A. Alan Hill 1981–1989 Ronald Reagan
Michael Deland 1989–1993 George H. W. Bush
Kathleen McGinty 1995–1998 Bill Clinton
George T. Frampton 1998 - January 20, 2001
James L. Connaughton June 18, 2001 – January 19, 2009 George W. Bush
Nancy Sutley January 22, 2009 – February 2014 Barack Obama
Michael Boots February 2014 – March 2015
Christy Goldfuss March 2015 – January 20, 2017
Mary Neumayr January 10, 2019 – January 20, 2021 Donald Trump
Brenda Mallory April 16, 2021 – Present Joe Biden

See also


  1. ^ United States. National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). 42 U.S.C. § 4342
  2. ^ NEPA, 42 U.S.C. § 4321.
  3. ^ "Connaughton Whitehouse bio,"
  4. ^ Griscom Little, Amanda "Earth Shakers: The Counter-Enviro Power List Archived 2010-09-26 at the Wayback Machine," Outside Magazine, May 2005
  5. ^ Harrabin, Roger "Links to oil industry," BBC, 5 October 2006
  6. ^ Revkin, Andrew "Lobbyist for API," New York Times; June 10, 2005
  7. ^ Revkin, Andrew "Cooney resignation," The New York Times, June 8, 2005
  8. ^ Wilson, Jamie "Cooney move to ExxonMobil," The Guardian, June 16, 2005
  9. ^ "History". Climate Science & Policy Watch. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  10. ^ Mooney, Chris (June 6, 2017). "85 percent of the top science jobs in Trump's government don't even have a nominee". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 4, 2018. "The Obama administration also had a chair of its Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley, in place in January 2009."
  11. ^ Banerjee, Neela (February 14, 2014). "Obama's environmental advisor set to return to Los Angeles". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 4, 2018. Refers to "her five years as head of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality".
  12. ^ "Nancy Sutley Receives Women in Sustainability Leadership Award from Green Building & Design Magazine". Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. October 5, 2016 (press release; 2016 archive). Retrieved February 4, 2018. "She is the immediate past Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality where she served from 2009 to 2014".
  13. ^ Eilperin, Juliet (January 13, 2015). "Mike Boots, one of Obama’s top environmental advisers, to leave in March". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 4, 2018. States that Boots "served as the Council on Environmental Quality's acting head since February 2014".
  14. ^ Eilperin, Juliet (February 6, 2015). "Meet Christy Goldfuss, the newest environmental player in the White House". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 4, 2018. "Goldfuss ... will succeed Mike Boots as acting head of CEQ.... Boots is stepping down in March, and Republican opposition to the president’s environmental policies would make Senate confirmation of any CEQ chair nominee unlikely."
  15. ^ "CAP Announces Former CEQ Managing Director Christy Goldfuss to Serve as New Vice President for Energy and Environment Policy" (press release). Center for American Progress. February 13, 2017. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  16. ^ Dennis, Brady; Mooney, Chris (October 13, 2017). "Trump taps climate skeptic for top White House environmental post". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  17. ^ Bowman, Emma (February 4, 2018). "White House To Withdraw Controversial Nominee For Top Environmental Post". NPR. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  18. ^ Hand, Mark (July 18, 2018). "Democrats go easy on Trump's nominee for top White House environmental office". The Hill. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
  19. ^ Volcovici, Valerie (March 24, 2021). "U.S. Senate panel confirms Mallory to head White House CEQ". Reuters. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  20. ^ "Biden's Choice for the Council on Environmental Quality: Brenda Mallory". April 14, 2021.
  21. ^ "On the Nomination (Confirmation: Brenda Mallory, of Maryland, to be a Member of the Council on Environmental Quality)" United States Senate, April 14, 2021
  22. ^ Volcovici, Valerie (April 14, 2021). "Senate votes to confirm Mallory to lead White House environmental council". Reuters. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  23. ^ CEQ Welcomes Brenda Mallory as New Chair (April 14, 2021)
  24. ^ Mallory Begins Work as Chair with Focus on Environmental Justice (April 19, 2021)