Green groups rip potential pick for Trump environmental adviser

Green groups rip potential pick for Trump environmental adviser
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Environmental groups are criticizing a potential pick for top White House environmental adviser.

Donald van der Vaart, the former secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, confirmed to The New York Times on Wednesday that he is being considered to lead the White House's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). 

His consideration comes just weeks after the administration withdrew the nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White, a controversial former chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, who was criticized for past comments questioning climate change.

Van der Vaart's potential nomination is already facing criticism from green groups.

“While running North Carolina’s top environmental agency, van der Vaart opposed anything that got in the way of industry, including the EPA’s clean power and clean water initiatives,” Perrin de Jong, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement Thursday. “His well-documented anti-regulation, anti-wildlife, anti-science agenda makes him a perfect foot soldier to help Trump carry out his war on the environment.”

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The Sierra Club pointed to van der Vaart's support of oil and gas drilling off North Carolina's coast, what it said were lax prosecutions against Duke Energy over coal ash emissions, and past calls to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as reasons to oppose his nomination.

“In North Carolina, Donald van der Vaart showed us that he is fundamentally hostile to the kind of work that is at the core of what CEQ is supposed to do. Van der Vaart has a long history of putting the fossil fuel industry before the health of our environment and the safety of our families," Molly Diggins, a director for the Sierra Club, said in a statement Thursday. "If the rumors are true, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE badly misread the Senate’s rejection of Kathleen Hartnett White and is considering a candidate to lead CEQ who would be as extreme and destructive."

In November 2016, van der Vaart wrote a letter to then President-elect Trump to remove power from the EPA and return it to the states.

"Many environmental improvements have occurred since the EPA was created; however, in recent years the EPA has run out of control. The EPA has systematically taken discretion away from the states and has become a symbol of federal overreach. It is time to return to the cooperative federalism that Congress intended when writing fundamental environmental laws," he wrote in the letter he signed with state environmental leaders from Alabama, North Dakota, Nebraska and West Virginia.

The letter also asked for a moratorium on enacting the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States rule.