Celebrating Black History Month

Meet the Black leaders in the Biden-Harris Administration tackling climate and environmental justice

We know that personnel is policy. After four years of an administration that denied the interwoven climate, racial, economic, and health crises, the Biden-Harris administration has assembled a diverse team of leaders who will prioritize and center racial justice and equity as it confronts the climate crisis, racial injustice, the COVID-19 pandemic, and economic inequality. 

This Black History Month, LCV and the entire environmental movement is celebrating history in the making by Black leaders who are at the forefront of advancing environmental and climate justice in the Biden-Harris administration. These barrier-breaking officials bring a wealth of experience to the administration and are leading the push for transformative environmental and climate policies that center equity, invest in Black and Brown communities historically overburdened by pollution, and deliver cleaner air and water for all.

EPA Administrator-designate Michael Regan

“We all understand the anxiety and the fear as we make this transition…In order for us to be successful, every state and every community has to see itself in our vision.”

If confirmed by the Senate, Regan will become the first Black man to be EPA administrator, which is likely to happen this Black History Month. At his committee hearing, Regan promised to urgently address the climate crisis and affirmed the need to prioritize farmworkers, environmental justice communities, and fossil-fuel workers in the transition to a clean energy future. As secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, Regan oversaw the state agency whose mission is to protect North Carolina’s environment and natural resources and received bipartisan praise for his record of building coalitions and fighting for environmental justice for communities exposed to toxic pollution, including runoff from hog farms and toxic PFAS chemicals in drinking water. He will bring over two decades of professional experience in environmental advocacy and regulation to the EPA, where he will be lead on the climate, racial justice, economic and public health crises and be guided by science and the law.

White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair-designate Brenda Mallory

I am hoping at the top of the priority list for CEQ is addressing changes Trump made to how CEQ implements NEPA.”

An expert on climate and environmental equity, Mallory would bring decades of career leadership on climate and natural resource issues to the helm of CEQ, where she would play a vital role in driving environmental policy across the federal government. Mallory is currently director of regulatory policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center, an advocacy and litigation group, and previously worked for several years at the EPA and as general counsel for the CEQ. She will bring deep knowledge of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to the Council’s efforts to strengthen and improve this law in ways that ensure people have a meaningful voice in projects that stand to harm their communities, and her commitment will help ensure that everyone— especially communities of color and low-wealth communities overburdened by pollution — can benefit from how we address climate change. If confirmed, Mallory will be the first African American to serve in this role. 

Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights-designate Kristen Clarke 

This work is a marathon and not a sprint…We can’t take our eye off the ball when it comes to promoting justice and standing up for the most vulnerable in our country.”

Earlier this year, President Biden selected Kristen Clarke to head the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. If confirmed, she will be the first Black woman to serve in the role. Her leadership at the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights — a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to enlist the private bar’s leadership and resources in combating racial discrimination and the resulting inequality of opportunity — was critical to halting Trump’s harmful attempt to abuse the census, and fight voter suppression across the country. With the Clarke appointment, the Biden-Harris administration is showing that the health of our democracy and environment are inextricably linked. Throughout her career, Clarke has focused on work that seeks to strengthen our democracy by combating discrimination faced by African Americans and other marginalized communities. Clarke formerly served as the head of the Civil Rights Bureau for the New York State Attorney General’s Office, where she led broad civil rights enforcement on matters including criminal justice issues, education and housing discrimination, fair lending, barriers to reentry, voting rights, immigrants’ rights, gender inequality, disability rights, reproductive access and LGBT issues. Under her leadership, the Bureau secured landmark agreements with banks to address unlawful redlining, employers to address barriers to reentry for people with criminal backgrounds, police departments on reforms to policies and practices, major retailers on racial profiling of consumers, and one of the country’s largest school districts concerning issues relating to the school-to-prison pipeline.

OSTP Deputy Director for Science and Society Dr. Alondra Nelson

Science, at its core, is a social phenomenon. It’s a reflection of people, our relationships, and our institutions. There is an incredible window of opportunity ahead of us to approach our science and technology policy in ways that are accountable, inclusive, and trustworthy.”

Dr. Nelson serves as Deputy Director for Science and Society — a prestigious, first-of-its-kind appointment — within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). President Biden’s commitment to both science and equity is on full display in selecting Dr. Nelson, an expert in social science, who we know will help prioritize justice and equity for low-income communities and communities of color being disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis and COVID-19. Dr. Nelson has been president of the Social Science Research Council, a non-profit organization that supports research in the social sciences, and a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, where she co-chairs the committee on emerging science technology and innovation in health and medicine. In her 2016 book The Social Life of DNA, she documented how Black American descendants of enslaved people are tracing their ancestry using DNA tests. In Body and Soul, published in 2011, she chronicled the Black Panther Party’s campaign for equal access to health care after its founding in the late 1960s.

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