GOP chairman intensifies fight with White House environmental panel

GOP chairman intensifies fight with White House environmental panel

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Monday that he still hasn’t received information he requested last month from a White House environmental advisory panel. 

Inhofe, the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has questioned whether the White House's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is allowed to continue operating since the Senate has not recently confirmed a full-time head for the panel. 

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He made his case to the White House last month, and asked for officials’ replies and documentation related to their actions.

In a letter to Inhofe last week, CEQ Managing Director Christy Goldfuss said the department is complying with administration leadership regulations as laid out in federal environmental laws. 

“CEQ has continued to develop and provide guidance, based on longstanding CEQ regulations, to assist agencies in approaching their responsibilities under [the law],” she wrote. “CEQ also has continued to provide guidance to agencies consistent with presidential directives.”

Then-CEQ Chairwoman Nancy Sutley resigned her position in February 2014, and agency Chief of Staff Michael Boots took over as acting chairman. 

Boots resigned in March, when Goldfuss took over as managing director. Inhofe contends federal law only allows an acting CEQ director to serve for 210 days — a threshold that has passed for Goldfuss — but the administration said it’s following the laws.

Inhofe questioned that interpretation in a letter sent last week. He said he thinks “actions purportedly taken on behalf of CEQ after this 210-day period expires will have no legal effect" due to the lack of Senate input.

In November, Inhofe requested information on the CEQ’s work on greenhouse gas emissions, internal operations manuals and its role in the lead-up to the Paris climate conference. He repeated his request in his follow-up letter to Goldfuss. 

“The Obama administration’s attempt to have CEQ managed and overseen on an indefinite basis by a lower-level official who has not been subject to the advice and consent of the Senate is contrary to CEQ’s legal authorities ... and falls far short of the president’s constitutional duty to ensure the laws of the United States are faithfully executed,” he wrote.