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Senate confirms two Interior, EPA nominees

Senate confirms two Interior, EPA nominees
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The Senate on Thursday confirmed two of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing MORE’s environmental nominees.

Joe Balash was confirmed as assistant secretary for land and minerals management at the Interior Department, and Susan Bodine was confirmed to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, which oversees enforcement of pollution laws.

Senators voted 61-38 to confirm Balash, a former Department of Natural Resources commissioner in Alaska, and he will serve as one of five assistant secretaries at Interior, overseeing land management and resource development issues.

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Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanHundreds of female Alaska attorneys call on Murkowski, Sullivan to vote 'no' on Kavanaugh Hillicon Valley: Seven Russians indicted for hacking | Apple, Amazon servers reportedly compromised by China | Pence calls on Google to end censored search engine work | Ireland investigates Facebook breach Senate passes key cyber bill cementing cybersecurity agency at DHS MORE (R-Alaska), for whom Balash worked as chief of staff, called him “probably one of the most qualified people to hold this job in the entire country.”

“It’s important to help manage resources we have in abundance, but also protect the environment,” Sullivan said.

“We all love our environment. ... We also have enormous opportunities for jobs and energy on public land, and what’s in all the federal statutes that Joe is going to be in charge of implementing is that you can do both.”

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellHillicon Valley: Facebook deletes accounts for political 'spam' | Leaked research shows Google's struggles with online free speech | Trump's praise for North Korea complicates cyber deterrence | Senators want Google memo on privacy bug Congress moves to ensure the greater availability of explosives detecting dogs in the US Overnight Energy — Presented by Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance — Trump ends law enforcement program at wildlife refuges | Pruitt canceled trips he already had tickets for | Senate panel approves new parks fund MORE (D-Wash.) opposed the nomination, arguing Balash’s confirmation would put him in the position of reversing a federal decision relating to land ownership of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

While Balash was a Natural Resources commissioner, Alaska filed a claim asking for a transfer of 20,000 acres of ANWR from the federal government to the state. The Bureau of Land Management rejected the claim, but Cantwell worries Balash could overturn that decision now.

“He will be overseeing the Bureau of Land Management, he will exercise the secretary’s discretion in the supervision of the Bureau of Land Management,” she said. “He will be in a position of reversing the Bureau of Land Management’s decision.”

Bodine was confirmed by a voice vote.

Democrats had long objected to bringing Bodine’s nomination to the floor, arguing that the EPA was moving too slowly to respond to some of their oversight requests.

But Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports Trump poised to sign bipartisan water infrastructure bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senators face Wednesday vote on Trump health plans rule | Trump officials plan downtime for ObamaCare website | Lawmakers push for action on reducing maternal deaths MORE (D-Del.) said the EPA has begun to reply to those inquiries, clearing the way for the Senate to take up Bodine’s nomination.

“I'm now satisfied with many of the responses they have sent so far, and I’m pleased we have seen real progress,” he said.

“I do not have, and I never had, an interest in delay for the sake of delay. ... The agency has done its part, and now we’re here today to do our part."