Trump’s Council on Environmental Quality has no members at all

The administration is required by law to have such a panel.

Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act
Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act on January 1, 1970 CREDIT: National Archives

It would not be an overstatement to say that President Donald Trump has placed the environment at the bottom of priority list. While his administration aggressively pursues its rollback of environmental protections and climate action, other key aspects of federal environmental policy have been completely ignored. Seven months into his presidency, Trump has yet to appoint a single member to the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), despite the fact that he is required by law to appoint a council to create and recommend policies to improve of the quality of the environment.

After noticing that its website showed no council members, ThinkProgress reached out to the council to ask for a list of current members. Told that this information was not available, ThinkProgress filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the current list of names. On Friday, the council’s FOIA public liaison responded to the request by noting that there were “no documents responsive to [the] request.” He explained that this is because there are currently no members of the council at all.

The National Environmental Policy Act, passed by Congress in 1969 and signed into law by Republican President Richard Nixon, established the council as part of the executive office of the president. The law mandates “three members who shall be appointed by the president to serve at his pleasure, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.”

Additionally, the law dictates that the president of the United States “shall designate one of the members of the Council to serve as Chairman,” and that each be “exceptionally well qualified to analyze and interpret environmental trends and information of all kinds; to appraise programs and activities of the Federal Government in the light of the policy set forth in title I of this Act; to be conscious of and responsive to the scientific, economic, social, aesthetic, and cultural needs and interests of the Nation; and to formulate and recommend national policies to promote the improvement of the quality of the environment.”


Language still on the council’s website states that “in enacting NEPA, Congress recognized that a variety of federal activities may affect the environment in significant ways and mandated that before federal agencies make decisions, they must consider the effects of their actions on the quality of the human environment.”

Though Trump ran on a platform of climate science denial, as a candidate he promised that he would “conserve our beautiful natural habitats” and “ensure clean air and clean water for all of our people.” To date, his environmental policy has been almost entirely one of deregulation. And by not having any council at all to recommend environmentally sound policies, the administration continues to display its profound lack of concern for environmental issues.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration moved the Council on Environmental Quality out of its long-time office space and revoked the council’s guidance on how to include climate change during environmental reviews, moves the council’s former managing director called “short-sighted and really difficult to understand.”

Trump has left numerous other key positions for environmental protection and other core government functions vacant, including science adviser.