Senator places hold on EPA nominee

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said Monday that he would place a procedural hold on President Obama’s pick to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


Blunt threatened to block the confirmation of Gina McCarthy, who currently heads EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, until he gets an update on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to repair a levee on the Mississippi River system.

“Once again, the government is arguing with the government while nothing is accomplished,” Blunt said in a Monday statement. “These agencies missed their own self-imposed deadline, which is entirely unacceptable. That’s why I’m placing a hold on the EPA Administrator until the Obama Administration can provide us with a concrete timeline for progress on the St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project.”

Blunt said the EPA, Army Corps and Fish and Wildlife Service missed a Friday progress report deadline for the St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project.

The proposed project would add pumping stations to the system and close a 1,500-foot gap in the levee.

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Of the three people Obama has tapped to fill out his second-term energy team, McCarthy is generally viewed as having the toughest path to confirmation.

McCarthy has overseen new proposed and implemented air emissions regulations that generated backlash from industry and conservatives.

Chiefly, those include mercury and other air toxins emissions rules, more stringent vehicle fuel economy standards and proposed emissions rules for new coal-fired power plants.

Senate Republicans have said they have questions about McCarthy’s role in ushering those rules through EPA. While many have hinted at a possible hold, none had committed to the idea until Blunt did Monday.

McCarthy’s confirmation hearing with the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has not yet been set.

Obama’s choices to lead the Interior and Energy departments also await confirmation.

Sally Jewell, Obama’s Interior selection, already faced the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Some Republicans said they still have questions about the chief executive of outdoor gear giant REI.

Ernest Moniz will also need to clear that committee to head the Energy Department. A physicist who directs the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative, Moniz has gotten favorable reactions from both Democrats and Republicans.

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