Dem senator puts holds on two EPA nominees

Dem senator puts holds on two EPA nominees
© Greg Nash

Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission Duckworth on Trump's Vietnam comments: Only 'stable geniuses' think people are 'fans' of war MORE (D-Ill.) has placed a hold on two of President TrumpDonald John Trump2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate Senate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House 'Teflon Don' avoids the scorn of the 'family values' GOP — again 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 BarrassoTrump proposal nixes review of long-term climate impacts Bipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy: 'You are the pride of our nation' 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 GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Senate Finance leaders in talks on deal to limit drug price increases Million-dollar drugs pose new challenge for Congress 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 ErnstMitt Romney: Rape allegation against Trump should be 'evaluated' GOP senator declines to directly address rape allegations against Trump GOP frets about Trump's poll numbers 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 PruittTrump administration to reconsider allowing controversial Alaska mining project Top EPA official stepping down amid ethics probe New EPA rule could expand number of Trump officials weighing in on FOIA requests 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.