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Dem senator puts holds on two EPA nominees

Dem senator puts holds on two EPA nominees
© Greg Nash

Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthAmy Coney Barrett's extreme views put women's rights in jeopardy Trump slight against Gold Star families adds to military woes McConnell focuses on confirming judicial nominees with COVID-19 talks stalled MORE (D-Ill.) has placed a hold on two of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote 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 BarrassoSenate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Hillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference GOP senators call on Trump to oppose nationalizing 5G 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 GrassleyBarrett confirmation stokes Democrats' fears over ObamaCare On The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Grassley: Voters should be skeptical of Biden's pledge to not raise middle class taxes 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 ErnstBiden to campaign in Iowa for first time since winning nomination The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden search for undecided voters in final stretch Biden seeks to close any path for Trump win in race's final days 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 PruittOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities | Rocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire | Trump order strips workplace protections from civil servants EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities Overnight Energy: Barrett punts on climate, oil industry recusals | Ex-EPA official claims retaliation in lawsuit | Dems seek to uphold ruling ousting Pendley 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.