Senate panel advances controversial environmental nominee

Senate panel advances controversial environmental nominee
© Texas Public Policy Foundation

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday advanced one of President Trump's environmental nominees who has been criticized for her disbelief in the science behind climate change and other issues.

Senators voted 11-10 to send the nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White to serve on the Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) to the Senate floor. Members also advanced Andrew Wheeler, Trump’s nominee to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on another party-line vote.

Hartnett White is a think tank official and former Texas environmental regulator with a reputation as a climate change skeptic who dismisses the science behind the influence of carbon emissions and other pollutants on the Earth's warming trend.

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At CEQ, Hartnett White would advise the president on environmental issues and coordinate federal environmental reviews.

Democrats slammed Hartnett White on Wednesday for her positions on environmental science and attacked Trump and Republicans for supporting both nominees.

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisO'Rourke edges out Biden in MoveOn straw poll Kamala Harris to keep seat on Judiciary Committee California dreamin’ in the 2020 presidential race MORE (D-Calif.) called the nomination process “morally bankrupt,” while Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan Merkley How to reform the federal electric vehicle tax credit Dem senator accuses Trump of aiding 'cover up' over Khashoggi Criminal justice reform splits 2020 Democrats MORE (D-Ore.) said the Hartnett White nomination was a “disservice.”

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Trump adviser Kudlow seeks end to electric car, renewable energy credits | Shell to pay execs based on carbon reduction | Justices reject greens' border wall lawsuit Representing patients’ voices Overnight Health Care: Top Trump refugee official taking new HHS job | Tom Price joins new Georgia governor's transition | FDA tobacco crackdown draws ire from the right MORE (D-Del.) said Hartnett White is a nominee “whose views are extreme, whose words are staggeringly inappropriate, and who shows remarkable disrespect for science, the environmental laws on the books and the federal government.”

“A nominee who can’t follow the thread from carbon pollution to ocean warming to sea level rise, who imagines science that is not there and ignores science that is there, is a preposterous nominee,” Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDems ask if Trump aide Bill Shine is breaking ethics laws Senators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe Dems vs. Trump: Breaking down the lawsuits against Whitaker MORE (D-R.I.) said.

At a free-for-all nomination hearing either this month, members of both parties lambasted Hartnett White. Democrats raised concerns about her past statements on science. She has called belief in climate change “paganism,” said renewable energy is “parasitic” and questioned the health risks of pollutants like ozone.

Republicans from agriculture-heavy states questioned her commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard ethanol mandate.

No Republicans voted against Hartnett White on Wednesday, but few spoke in her favor.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoThe Year Ahead: Dems under pressure to deliver on green agenda White House jumps into fight over energy subsidies Clock ticks down on GOP Congress MORE (R-Wyo.), the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, noted endorsements from the Chamber of Commerce and a former Obama administration Energy Department official.

He said that Hartnett White’s “experience with environmental matters is broad” and that she will “bring her extensive experience to her job at CEQ.”

“We’ve had a lot of name-calling here and I’m sure that makes everybody on the left feel better,” Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeTrump ultimatum sparks fears of new arms race Trump, in reversal, calls for Pentagon to raise budget request to 0B: reports Inhofe tells military crowd: 'Don't trust the media' MORE (R-Okla.) said. "We have people out there who are singing her praises, and you don’t need to get down to the mud and name-call on these things.”

Wheeler, a former EPA official, Environment and Public Works Committee Republican staffer and fossil fuel industry lobbyist, was also approved on an 11-10 vote. Democrats raised concerns about his work lobbying for Murray Energy, a major coal producer and supporter of the EPA’s deregulatory effort.

But Republicans broadly supported his nomination, with Inhofe, the committee’s former chairman, highlighting his work on legislative efforts.

“I totally relied on Andrew Wheeler for the background, the knowledge, the expertise that he has demonstrated year after year after year on a very bipartisan basis,” he said.

“We’ve had some successes in this committee, and a lot of the successes we’ve had are due to one employee in particular, and that was Andrew Wheeler.”