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 TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? 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 SullivanOvernight Defense: Trump hits Iranian central bank with sanctions | Trump meeting with Ukrainian leader at UN | Trump touts relationship with North Korea's Kim as 'best thing' for US Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan Republicans grumble over Trump shifting military funds to wall 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 CantwellOvernight Energy: Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest| Democrats inch closer to issuing subpoenas for Interior, EPA records| Trump's plan to boost ethanol miffs corn groups and the fossil fuel industry Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservative politicians, pundits 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 CarperInstead of raising the gas tax, stop wasting money on frivolous projects To stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Energy: Trump tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists 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."