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What’s the Council on Environmental Quality and Why Is Trump’s Nominee Controversial?

by Countable | 12.5.17

What’s the Council on Environmental Quality?

The CEQ, a division of the Executive Branch, coordinates environmental and energy policies between the White House and other federal agencies.

While the Trump administration has removed the CEQ page from Whitehouse.gov, the archived page from the Obama administration explained that one of the council’s "major responsibilities is to develop and recommend national policies to the president that promote the improvement of environmental quality and meet the nation's goals."

In 1969, Congress enacted the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to "declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment…; to enrich the understanding of the…natural resources important to the Nation; and to establish a Council on Environmental Quality."

CEQ’s role is to oversee the implementation of NEPA, "principally through issuing guidance and interpreting regulations that implement NEPA's procedural requirements." The CEQ also:

  • Reviews and approves federal agency NEPA procedures.

  • Approves alternative arrangements for compliance with NEPA during emergency situations.

  • Helps resolve disputes between federal agencies, other governmental entities, and members of the public

Why Is Trump’s Nominee Controversial?

The chair can be thought of as the liaison between the White House and other federal agencies on environmental efforts.

The position had remained vacant, until President Donald Trump nominated Kathleen Hartnett White - former chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality - to lead the council. Last year, White said that climate change science was "highly uncertain" and that “renewables are a false hope.”

In response to Trump’s nomination, over 300 scientists published a letter telling Congress to oppose White’s confirmation "because the one thing more dangerous than climate change is lying."

"There is unanimous agreement across peer-reviewed climate science that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released by human activities are contributing to the harmful effects of climate change. To state otherwise in the face of overwhelming evidence is simply unsupportable," the group of concerned scientists wrote.

White’s nomination, however, is consistent with Trump and his administration’s views on climate change. Both the President and Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt have questioned the validity of climate change.

But the scientists pushed back, writing:

"This is not a partisan issue; it is a matter of defending scientific integrity. Climate change threatens us all, regardless of political affiliation. Confirming…White at the helm of the Council on Environmental Quality would have serious consequences for people and the ecosystems of the only planet that can support us."

What do you think?

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee cleared White’s nomination last Wednesday, and she awaits a full Senate vote. How do you want your rep voting? Hit Take Action and let them know—then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman

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(Photo Credit: microgen / iStockphoto)

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