Dems press EPA nominees on ethics, climate

Dems press EPA nominees on ethics, climate
© Camille Fine

Skeptical Senate Democrats used a Wednesday confirmation hearing for two Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominees to push the candidates on Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA to make formal decision on regulating drinking water contaminant | Utility to close coal plant despite Trump plea | Greens say climate is high on 2020 voters’ minds EPA to announce PFAS chemical regulation plans by end of year Court tosses challenge to EPA's exclusion of certain scientists from advisory boards MORE’s ethics scandals and climate change.

The Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee pressured Chad McIntosh and Peter Wright to buck what they see as patterns Pruitt has put into practice of violating ethics and spending standards and aggressively rolling back regulations on climate and other matters.

McIntosh, Ford Motor Co.’s environmental policy chief, was tapped to lead the EPA’s international and tribal affairs office. Wright, a senior attorney at DowDuPont, would lead the office of land and emergency management, which oversees chemical plant safety rules, Superfund site cleanups and other areas.

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“Do each of you commit not to assist this administrator or any administrator in an effort to enrich him or his family even if he or she directs you to do so,” Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants EPA to announce PFAS chemical regulation plans by end of year Overnight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House MORE (Del.), the committee’s top Democrat, asked both nominees.

“I have no expectation that would happen, but I wouldn’t agree to it,” Wright responded.

McIntosh promised to be “in full compliance with the all the rules and regulations of the agency and work very closely with the ethics officials on all issues.”

A similar script played out when Carper and his colleagues asked the nominees about doing personal tasks for Pruitt, doing favors for his political allies, asking staffers to find reasons to visit certain international destinations and other questions.

Democrats also used the opportunity to push back on Pruitt’s skepticism of climate change science.

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John Markey2020 Dem slams Green New Deal: As realistic as Trump's claim that Mexico will pay for wall EPA chief knocks Green New Deal: 'Not really ready for prime time' How to pay for the Green New Deal: Make the fossil fuel industry pay MORE (D-Mass.) and others repeatedly tried to get the nominees to say whether they believe the scientific consensus that climate change is primarily caused by humans. But the nominees only said that humans play some role, not whether humans play the primary role.

“I’m not detailedly familiar with the science to put a relative weight, but I believe they are a cause,” Wright said.

Wright agreed, however, that future predictions about climate impacts like severe weather and flooding ought to play into how the EPA directs Superfund cleanups.

Wright early on in the hearing diffused one of Democrats’ top concerns: that he would be overseeing cleanups of dozens Superfund sites for which his previous employer is responsible.

He said he has already worked with ethics officials to plan out how he would be recused from matters pertaining to those sites or any other matters related to Dow or DuPont.