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Another Top Biden Administration Official Resigns As Environmental Quality Director Departs

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The Biden administration has faced a ton of obstacles as President Joe Biden has been struggling to implement his agenda, and some of his allies are abandoning ship.

On Wednesday, a member of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Cecilia Martinez, announced that she had decided to resign.

The announcement comes around a year after she had accepted the position with the administration, The Associated Press reported.

Martinez helped develop then-candidate Joe Biden’s environmental justice agenda while he was campaigning by setting up meetings between Biden’s team and key environmental justice leaders from around the country. She went on to oversee a review of the Council on Environmental Quality as part of Biden’s transition team and was eventually appointed as the top ranking official on environmental justice in the administration.

Through executive orders and legislation, the administration has tried to direct resources toward disadvantaged communities, develop tools to monitor climate and economic justice and pass regulations to clean up the environment.

Some of that was accomplished. The White House’s Justice40 initiative mandated that 40% of benefits from federal investments in sustainable and green infrastructure, such as clean energy, pollution cleanup and water improvements, go to disadvantaged communities.

The administration also created a mapping tool that will help identify communities most in need of such investments.

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“It was a hard decision,” she said in an interview. She cited wanting rest and wanting to be with her family as the driving reasons for her departure from the job.

Democrats lauded the job she did and said she would be missed in her role.

“From the campaign and the Presidential Transition to this critically-important first year of the Administration, Cecilia has been the heart, soul, and mind of the most ambitious environmental justice agenda ever adopted by a President,” CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory said.

“I would say that overall there was some progress made in advancing environmental justice priorities more through executive actions than legislation,” Juan Jhong-Chung, climate justice director of the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, said .“But our communities are still waiting for the results on the ground.”

Some of those who want to see more from the administration have been disappointed and are not expecting more results from Biden on the agenda.

“It has been disappointing,” Dallas Goldtooth, campaign organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, said. “I’ve got friends who are in the administration and … I’m cheering them on, but I also feel for them when their hands are tied.”

In December, Politico predicted resignations could extend to the White House.

The report from Politico’s West Wing Playbook claimed to quote staffers in the Biden White House who are considering jumping ship after the holidays.

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“In the first year of the Biden White House, comradery has been fleeting and many teams are suffering from low morale, according to several White House officials,” the outlet reported.

“The result: many White House aides are feeling gloomy this holiday season, so much so that they anonymously fumed to West Wing Playbook in the hope it may alert senior leaders to the problem,” Playbook noted further, adding:

Many are also currently eyeing the exits, creating the potential for higher-than-usual turnover at the beginning of the year, when aides feel they’ve been in the job long enough that it won’t look odd to depart.

“A lot of the natural coordination that happens in a typically functioning White House has been lost, and there has been no proactive effort to make up for it through intentional team building,” said one White House official.

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So, what’s the issue?

“Some staffers say it’s the result of an insular, top-heavy White House of longtime Biden aides who are distant from much of the staff — “no new friends in Biden world,” goes the refrain. And others say it’s just poor management,” Politico Playbook adds.

“No one expects business as usual during the pandemic, but it’s beyond demoralizing, it’s insulting — especially when you see DNC and Hill staff and other D.C. types get invited,” a White House official who was granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk explained.

“Many colleagues have brought this up to me unprompted. And I’ve had D.C. friends ask me if I wanted to grab coffee after they attended. Meanwhile, we work here, and most of us haven’t worked here before or stepped foot into the White House,” the official added.

“It’s also hypocritical and ironic that a president whose brand is built on empathy and family has staff policies that fly in the face of that brand. It’s not a good look and it’s emblematic of how this place runs,” the official added.

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