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 HarrisSenate Dems introduce bill to prevent Trump from using disaster funds to build wall Klobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Sherrod Brown pushes for Medicare buy-in proposal in place of 'Medicare for all' MORE (D-Calif.) called the nomination process “morally bankrupt,” while Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats The border deal: What made it in, what got left out Lawmakers introduce bill to fund government, prevent shutdown MORE (D-Ore.) said the Hartnett White nomination was a “disservice.”

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants EPA to announce PFAS chemical regulation plans by end of year Overnight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House 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 WhitehouseGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech New battle lines in war over Trump’s judicial picks 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 BarrassoDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants Overnight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Senators highlight threat from invasive species 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 InhofeOn The Money: Trump to sign border deal, declare emergency to build wall | Senate passes funding bill, House to follow | Dems promise challenge to emergency declaration Trump to sign border deal, declare national emergency Foreign Affairs chairman: US military intervention in Venezuela 'not an option' 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.”