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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.

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“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 WhitehouseHawley files ethics counter-complaint against seven Democratic senators Biden expands on Obama ethics pledge Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts 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 BarrassoSenate to vote Tuesday on Biden's secretary of State pick OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden EPA asks Justice Dept. to pause defense of Trump-era rules | Company appeals rejection of Pebble Mine | Energy pick Granholm to get hearing Wednesday Nomination hearing for Biden Energy pick Granholm set for Wednesday 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 InhofeOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Senate confirms Austin to lead Pentagon under Biden Justice Dept. closes insider trading case against Burr without charges 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.”