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: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas EPA inspector general to resign Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog says agency failed to properly monitor asbestos at schools| Watchdog won’t investigate former Superfund head’s qualifications| Florence causes toxic coal ash spill in North Carolina 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 CarperOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills Super PACs spend big in high-stakes midterms 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 MarkeyOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report 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.