Dem senator puts holds on two EPA nominees

Dem senator puts holds on two EPA nominees
© Greg Nash

Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthDem senators move to halt potential US troop withdrawal from S. Korea Dems accuse Interior of holding up key grants Five things to watch for at the US-North Korea summit MORE (D-Ill.) has placed a hold on two of President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday Shows preview: Lawmakers, Trump allies discuss Russia probe, migrant family separation Seth McFarlane: Fox News makes me 'embarrassed' to work for this company  'Art of the Deal' co-author: Trump would act like Kim Jong Un if he had the same powers MORE's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominees.

Duckworth's office said she has holds on the nominations of Bill Wehrum to lead the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation and Michael Dourson to head the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

In a statement, Duckworth cited the pair’s history working on behalf of industries they would regulate if the Senate confirms them to their positions at the EPA.

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She said Dourson’s career as a chemical industry representative compromises his ability to oversee the industry. And she called out Wehrum for his “record of opposing the Renewable Fuel Standard,” the federal mandate on biofuel blending requirements.

“In the ten months that Donald Trump has been president, his administration has launched unprecedented attacks on the Renewable Fuel Standard — attacks that fly in the face of promises Trump made as a candidate to our nation’s farmers that he would champion the [Renewable Fuel Standard] program if elected,” Duckworth said in a statement.

“Any senator who supports the [Renewable Fuel Standard] program, our farmers, and our commitment to the environment and energy dependence must oppose his nomination.”

Wehrum and Dourson are among the more controversial nominees put forward by President Trump. The Environment and Public Works Committee, on which Duckworth sits, was due to consider the nominees on Wednesday but committee Republicans canceled the vote Tuesday night.

Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoGOP chairman seeks ‘sufficient’ funding for EPA watchdog office Ernst, Fischer to square off for leadership post Trump calls into Senate GOP lunch to discuss North Korea MORE (R-Wyo.) said a vote on the nominees is "likely next week."

"We’ll let each senator speak for themselves," he told reporters. "We want to move all of the nominees together, so there were concerns and we decided to move it to next week."

Environmentalists have aggressively criticized Dourson for his career in the chemicals industry. E&E News reported Wednesday that he is already working at the EPA in an advisory role.

Wehrum’s nomination has become a proxy battle over the Renewable Fuel Standard, with some senators, including Republican Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyPruitt’s new problem with the GOP: Ethanol Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Dems see midterm advantage in new ObamaCare fight Senate Judiciary urges response to sexual harassment in federal courts MORE (R-Iowa), raising the possibility of holding up the nomination if the White House doesn’t back off its plan to water down the biofuels mandate.

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstPruitt’s new problem with the GOP: Ethanol Trump’s danger on North Korea? Raised expectations Conservative group launches ad calling on Trump to fire Pruitt MORE (R-Iowa), who also sits on the Environment and Public Works committee, raised questions about the EPA’s commitment to biofuels after a meeting with Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittPruitt’s new problem with the GOP: Ethanol Harvard scientists: Trump environmental policies could result in 80,000 more deaths per decade Overnight Energy: New controversies cap rough week for Pruitt | Trump 'not happy about certain things' with Pruitt | EPA backtracks on suspending pesticide rule MORE on Tuesday. Her support for Wehrum is critical to moving the nominee because Republicans hold only a one vote margin in the EPW committee. 

She said Wednesday that discussions over the RFS and the nomination are ongoing.

“Holding the EPA’s feet to the fire has put us on a path to receive strong reassurances on biofuel volumes and the EPA’s commitment to follow both the letter and the spirit of the RFS, as well as a commitment to not pursue other policies harmful to our farmers across Iowa,” Ernst said in a statement.

“My staff and I will continue to keep a watchful eye as these assurances come to life, and while we are still in negotiations, I do feel good about the direction we are headed.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) spoke Wednesday with both Pruitt and Trump, and said the Trump call was "very productive."

"Both of them personally affirmed to me their continued commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard,” she told reporters.

—Updated at 4:05 p.m.