Senate clears two EPA officials after GOP members drop holds

Voinovich made clear the hold wasn’t about Perciasepe at all – instead it was over what Voinovich alleged was shoddy EPA analysis of the big Democratic climate and energy bill the House approved in June.

EPA found the bill would raise average household costs by $80 to $111 per year, a sharp contrast to GOP claims that the cap-and-trade plan would slap consumers with massive energy cost increases.

But Voinovich said EPA’s number crunching rested on dubious assumptions, including what he called an overly rosy view how quickly low-emissions energy sources will be deployed.

It wasn’t immediately clear what broke the impasse.

It will be Perciasepe’s second stint with EPA. He served in President Clinton’s EPA as assistant administrator for water, and then assistant administrator for air and radiation. He has since been with the National Audubon Society, most recently as chief operating officer.

The Senate also confirmed Paul Anastas – a Yale University expert in “green chemistry” – to head EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterTrump nominates wife of ex-Louisiana senator to be federal judge Where is due process in all the sexual harassment allegations? Not the Senate's job to second-guess Alabama voters MORE (R-La.) had been blocking his confirmation over concerns about EPA’s plans to complete a long-delayed assessment of risks posed by formaldehyde, which was found in elevated levels in trailers the Federal Emergency Management Agency provided to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies the chemical as a known carcinogen and EPA already lists it as a probable carcinogen. It also has short-term health effects such as respiratory problems and skin irritation.

Vitter has wanted the National Academy of Sciences to take part in reviewing formaldehyde’s health effects. Vitter’s actions prompted allegations by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and other critics that he was acting on behalf of chemical manufacturers to stall federal safety standards that would be based on EPA’s analysis.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Vitter dropped his hold after EPA’s Jackson agreed to allow the NAS to conduct an expedited peer review of the agency’s assessment.

“I'm glad the EPA has finally announced it will move forward with what it had already agreed to do over a year ago: allow for a independent review by the National Academy of Sciences,” Vitter said in the Times-Picayune account.

“Because of the FEMA trailer debacle, Louisianians need the most reliable information possible about formaldehyde risk. NAS is widely considered the gold standard in science and will contribute to more a complete examination, which will hopefully provide definitive information for Louisianians about this chemical and the potential effects associated with exposure to it,” he added.