Senate confirms climate skeptic to head DOJ environment office

Senate confirms climate skeptic to head DOJ environment office
© Getty Images

The Senate voted Thursday to confirm a climate change skeptic and former industry attorney to lead the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) environment division.

Lawmakers voted 52 to 45 to confirm Jeffrey Bossert Clark to be the assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources. Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinCain says he withdrew from Fed consideration because of 'pay cut' On The Money: Cain 'very committed' to Fed bid despite opposition | Pelosi warns no US-UK trade deal if Brexit harms Irish peace | Ivanka Trump says she turned down World Bank job Cain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed MORE (D-W.Va.) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill Endorsements? Biden can't count on a flood from the Senate MORE (D-Mo.), both running for reelection GOP states, joined all Republicans present in voting to confirm Clark.

Clark is and attorney at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, where he has represented numerous industry clients, including oil giant BP in its efforts to fight certain claims from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and spill, and the Chamber of Commerce. He’s said climate change science is “contestable.”

"Jeff Clark is one of the leading environmental litigators in the country, and has been counsel in many of the most significant environmental and natural resource cases of the past two decades, both here at the Department of Justice and in private practice," Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Sessions: It's time to accept the results of the Mueller report and move on Trump poised to roll back transgender health protections MORE said in a statement welcoming Clark to the department.
 
 
“Mr. Clark’s legal colleagues describe him as one of the most capable lawyers with whom they’ve ever worked, and no fewer than seven former assistant attorneys general for the environment and natural resources division tell the Senate that his well-rounded background and prior experience in the division make him an excellent choice for this position,” he said.
 
Clark’s past experience includes a stint as deputy assistant attorney general in the same DOJ division.

Democrats said Clark’s history shows he would further President TrumpDonald John TrumpForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Lara Trump: Merkel admitting migrants 'one of the worst things that ever happened to Germany' Financial satisfaction hits record high: survey MORE’s pro-industry environmental record, to the loss of the climate and public health.

“He is a favorite of the Federalist Society, having chaired that  group's environmental law and practice group. But his nomination is  strongly opposed by groups that care about protecting the environment,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDurbin calls Mueller report findings on Trump team 'troubling' Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks McConnell: 'Past time' for immigration-border security deal MORE (D-Ill.).

“He is exactly the  wrong person to be in this job of enforcing regulations to protect our  environment.”

Clark’s responsibilities at the DOJ will include being the top law enforcement official in pursuing claims against polluters and companies that violate environmental laws. He’ll also be responsible for defending Trump’s aggressive deregulatory agenda against an onslaught of lawsuits.

“Jeffrey Bossert Clark’s blatant hostility toward environmental protection is good news for polluters, but awful news for the rest of us,” Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. “The guy who defended the company that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history is not likely to aggressively go after corporate environmental outlaws.”

Trump nominated Clark to the post in June 2017, but the full Senate didn’t act on the nomination until this week.

Sessions both thanked senators for confirming Clark and criticized the length of time it took.
 
"He is ready to lead this division — and it should not have taken us 16 months to get him confirmed," he said.

Clark will replace Jeffrey Wood, who has been acting assistant attorney general in the environment division since Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.

Updated: 3:26 p.m.