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 rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push 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 SullivanSenators introduce bill to prevent border agency from selling personal data Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Republicans defend McCain amid Trump attacks 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 CantwellDon't revive logging in national forests Top Finance Dem offers bill to help those repaying student loans save for retirement Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg meets with senators on privacy 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: EPA watchdog finds Pruitt spent 4K on 'excessive' travel | Agency defends Pruitt expenses | Lawmakers push EPA to recover money | Inslee proposes spending T for green jobs Lawmakers take EPA head to task for refusing to demand Pruitt repay travel expenses Dems request investigation of lobbyist-turned-EPA employee who met with former boss 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."