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 TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response 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 SullivanHillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese, Malaysian hackers accused of targeting over 100 organizations | GOP senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal | QAnon awareness jumps in new poll Republican Senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal Alaska group backing independent candidate appears linked to Democrats 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: Zuckerberg acknowledges failure to take down Kenosha military group despite warnings | Election officials push back against concerns over mail-in voting, drop boxes Bipartisan senators call for investigation of popular fertility app The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mike Roman says 3M on track to deliver 2 billion respirators globally and 1 billion in US by end of year; US, Pfizer agree to 100M doses of COVID-19 vaccine that will be free to Americans 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 CarperDemocrat asks for probe of EPA's use of politically appointed lawyers Overnight Energy: Study links coronavirus mortality to air pollution exposure | Low-income, minority households pay more for utilities: report OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push resolution to battle climate change, sluggish economy and racial injustice | Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling energy bill | Trump courts Florida voters with offshore drilling moratorium 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."