Week ahead: Controversial EPA air nominee to get Senate vote

Week ahead: Controversial EPA air nominee to get Senate vote
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The Senate is scheduled to vote in the coming week to confirm President Trump's controversial nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Air and Radiation.

Trump in September nominated William Wehrum to lead the office, which oversees a portfolio of regulations related to air pollution and climate change.   

The nomination has angered environmentalists, given Wehrum's history as a lawyer for industries he would soon be charged with regulating.

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He was most recently at the Hunton & Williams law firm, whose client list includes the American Petroleum Institute, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, the American Chemistry Council and the National Association of Manufacturers. He argued in court against an Obama administration worker safety rule in September, after Trump nominated him to the EPA post.

Wehrum led the EPA's air office on an interim basis late in the George W. Bush administration, but Democrats said at his confirmation hearing last month that they think he's a bad choice to take it over full-time under Trump.

Most recently, Wehrum was at the center of a fight over the federal ethanol mandate, with senators attempting to hold his nomination up until the EPA withdrew plans to water down the mandate. The agency backed down and a Senate committee sent his nomination to the floor two weeks ago.

If confirmed, Wehrum will be only the second EPA nominee put in place at the agency, after Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA to pursue final 'science transparency' rule in 2019 Trump administration to unveil strategy for fighting lead exposure Overnight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Court blocks Atlantic coast pipeline | Kerry calls Trump climate actions 'profoundly dangerous' | EPA asked to investigate Pruitt Fox News hits MORE. Several others, including Trump's picks to lead the agency's chemical safety and enforcement offices, are awaiting floor consideration.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on two more Trump nominees next week: Andrew Wheeler to be the EPA's Deputy Administrator and Kathleen Hartnett White to lead the White House's Council on Environmental Quality.

Both nominees are expected to be controversial. Wheeler is a former coal industry lobbyist, having worked for Murray Energy Corp. and uranium mining firm Energy Fuels Resources Inc. Hartnett White is a prominent and outspoken skeptic of climate change who once wrote that Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaNearly the entire country gets it wrong on the minimum wage The Hill's Morning Report — Trump maintains his innocence amid mounting controversies A sea change for sexual conduct on campus MORE had waged a "deluded and illegitimate battle against climate change" while president.

In other confirmation news, the Senate installed the final two members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday, meaning new commissioners Kevin McIntyre and Richard Glick could be sworn in as early as next week. When they take office, it will be the first time FERC has been at full strength since 2015.

Concerns over the recovery in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria will be back on the congressional agenda in the coming week.

The House Natural Resources Committee will hold an oversight hearing Tuesday on the "challenges in Puerto Rico's recovery and the role of the Financial Oversight and Management Board."

The oversight board appointed an emergency manager for the island's state-run electricity utility in the wake of the controversial Whitefish Energy contract, a topic that seems likely to come up during the hearing. A witness list was unavailable Friday.

On Tuesday, in the first post-Maria congressional hearing, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency told Congress the Trump administration will likely have to request more funding to tackle disaster recovery efforts following a severe hurricane season and wildfires in the West.

 

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