Senate committee approves Rhea Suh nomination

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the nomination of Rhea Suh Thursday to oversee fish, wildlife and parks programs at the Department of the Interior, despite Republican protests that she is antagonistic toward natural gas.

At a brief meeting, Chairwoman Sen. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuYou want to recall John McCain? Good luck, it will be impossible CNN producer on new O'Keefe video: Voters are 'stupid,' Trump is 'crazy' CNN's Van Jones: O'Keefe Russia 'nothingburger' video 'a hoax' MORE (D-La.) sought to reassure her colleagues of Suh’s qualifications for the position.

“This position is charged not with overseeing energy production, but with overseeing fish, wildlife and parks,” Landrieu said. “Ms. Suh repeatedly reiterated her support for natural gas production before this committee. She stated unequivocally that she would absolutely support responsible development of natural gas and other fossil fuels from our public lands.”

The committee voted 12-10, along party lines, to send Suh’s nomination to the full Senate.

Suh is currently in charge of Interior’s policy, management and budget. Her nomination hearing was in February, but the committee did not have the quorum to vote at that time because of bad weather.

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMoore digs in amid mounting GOP criticism Republicans float pushing back Alabama special election Moore defends himself as pressure mounts MORE (Alaska), the panel’s top Republican, was displeased with Suh’s performance at that hearing.

“Throughout the process, she provided inadequate responses to questions from myself and other members of the committee,” Murkowski said before the Thursday vote. “In my view, madam chairman, she has not demonstrated that she is the right choice to oversee and provide the needed direction to the National Park Service and to Fish and Wildlife.”

Republicans opposed Suh’s nomination mainly due to her history opposing natural gas development and use. Before coming to Interior, Suh worked for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, where she oversaw grants to environmental groups to oppose natural gas production.

“If confirmed, she would be able to block natural gas production on public lands and private property,” said Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoThis week: GOP seeks to advance tax overhaul Dissent is democratic: Stop calling McCain, Corker, Flake RINOs The farm bill presents a chance to lighten the regulatory burden of farmers MORE (R-Wyo.). “In light of Ms. Suh’s past statements and actions, I expect her to do exactly that.”

Louisiana Republicans sought to appeal to Landrieu’s support for the natural gas industry and urge her to oppose Suh’s nomination. Instead, Landrieu said Thursday that Suh’s work at Interior “recognizes the importance of natural gas to the country’s energy needs.”

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellDemocrats oppose effort to delay or repeal Interior methane rule Senators spar over proposal to drill in Alaska wildlife refuge Fake quorum calls are an excuse for the Senate's inaction MORE (D-Wash.) said Suh’s work reforming Interior after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in faster approval times drilling permits, resulting in an increase in oil and gas production on federal lands.

“So, hardly a case of somebody who took a role and responsibility and did something other than oil and gas production,” Cantwell said.