Overnight Energy: Senators grill Trump environmental pick | EPA air nominee heads to Senate floor | Feds subpoena ex-Trump adviser over biofuels push

Overnight Energy: Senators grill Trump environmental pick | EPA air nominee heads to Senate floor | Feds subpoena ex-Trump adviser over biofuels push
© Camille Fine

TRUMP PICK IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Kathleen Hartnett White, President Trump's nominee to lead the Council on Environmental Quality, faced bipartisan opposition during a Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

Both Republicans and Democrats using her past statements on climate change and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to raise concerns about her nomination.

Hartnett White, a think tank official and former Texas environmental regulator, is an outspoken climate change skeptic and has raised questions about the science behind not just carbon emissions but also other greenhouse gases and pollutants.


Hartnett White, 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 (D-Del.) said, "has shown that she is not only a science denier, but actively promotes misinformation on climate, ozone, mercury, particulate matter and other known health hazards that impact our air and waterways."

Carper noted that she had equated belief in climate change to "paganism" and highlighted her comment that ozone, a pollutant with ties to health problems, is not harmful unless "you put your mouth over the tailpipe of a car for eight hours every day."

Other Democrats brought up her statement that renewable energy is "parasitic" and her opposition to Obama-era efforts to tackle climate change.

Hartnett White said "there may be some mistakes" in some of her past statements, but that some of the quotations used against her were "out of context."

She said climate change is real but more research is needed into its causes.

"It's likely that C02 emissions from human activity have some influence on the climate but not to the extent" some scientists have said, she said.

"We need a more precise explanation of the human contribution," she said.

Republicans from agriculture states also criticized Hartnett White, including her repeated opposition to the RFS, which supports the corn industry.

"I worry about your extremist views and your role as an adviser to the president," said Sen. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerEPA signs off on rule exempting farmers from reporting emissions GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE The real reason Scott Pruitt is gone: Putting a key voting bloc at risk MORE (R-Neb.).

Hartnett White has called for the RFS to be repealed. But she said Wednesday she would support Trump's proposal to expand the program in the future.

Read more about the hearing here.


Dems concerned about Wheeler's lobbying past: Democrats also questioned the lobbying past of Trump's nominee to be the No. 2 official at the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler.

Wheeler said that while he represented Murray Energy, he had seen a plan written by the company's CEO, Robert Murray, designed to roll back federal regulations on the coal industry.

Wheeler said he didn't remember its details, but he also said he attended two meetings -- at the Energy Department and on Capitol Hill -- on a controversial department plan to prop up the coal and nuclear industries.

Republicans were quick to support Wheeler's nomination.

"We know how well-qualified Mr. Wheeler is, and if confirmed, what a wealth of experience and expertise he will bring to a critically important role in protecting America's public health and safety," committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTrump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Push to change wildlife act sparks lobbying blitz House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill MORE (R-Wyo.) said.

Read more about the hearing here.


Durbin places hold on Interior nominees: Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGrassley to administration: You must consult Congress on refugee cap Overnight 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 group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment MORE (D-Ill.) revealed Wednesday that he's put a hold on all four pending Interior Department nominees over the Trump administration's plans to potentially shrink multiple national monuments.

Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, disclosed his hold Wednesday in a letter to the Interior Department, after Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeTrump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Big-game hunters infuriated by Trump elephant trophy debacle Interior moves ahead with opening wildlife refuge next to contaminated nuclear site MORE sent a public letter complaining about the confirmation process.

Durbin and three other Democrats on Oct. 23 asked for a meeting with Zinke about the secretary's recommendations to President Trump to shrink national monuments. Such a meeting has not yet been held or scheduled.

The administration has not yet released the recommendations publicly, although The Washington Post reported that Zinke wants four monuments reduced in size and management changes at numerous other ones.

Democrats and environmentalists have fought the review of national monuments tooth and nail, arguing that any reductions in protected areas would be harmful.

"Please let the secretary know that while my colleagues and I await his scheduling decision, my hold on Department of Interior nominees will continue," Durbin wrote to Micah Chambers, head of the Interior's congressional relations office.

Read more here.


Senate advances air nominee: The Senate will likely vote to confirm a new Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation at the EPA this week.

The Senate voted 49-46 Wednesday to end debate on Bill Wehrum's nomination to be assistant administrator of the agency. If confirmed this week he will be only the second of Trump's EPA nominees confirmed to the agency.

The Senate could vote to confirm Wehrum as soon as Thursday.

Read more here.


NASA pick heads to the floor: The Senate Commerce Committee voted along party lines Wednesday to advance the nomination of Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineNASA looking into selling naming rights for rockets to corporate brands: report NASA administrator says he always thought humans caused climate change We really are going back to the moon and then on to Mars MORE, Trump's nominee to lead the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Democrats strongly objected to Bridenstine, labeling him a politically polarizing figure with little scientific or technical expertise. They also objected to his skepticism of climate change science and his past statements on homosexuality and LGBT rights.

"The NASA administrator, in my judgment, ought to be a skilled executive capable of managing a portfolio of many of the most challenging technical projects undertaken by humankind, especially at this point, as we are venturing out into the cosmos," Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Kavanaugh controversy consumes Washington | Kavanaugh slated to testify Monday | Allegations shake up midterms Florida governor booed out of restaurant over red tide algae issues Juan Williams: America warms up to socialism MORE (Fla.), the top Democrat on the committee, said before senators voted on Bridenstine.

"The NASA administrator must have a strong scientific and a technical background, and the NASA administrator must not be political," he continued. "I believe, Mr. Chairman, that the nominee falls short."

Read more here.


PRUITT SAYS CLIMATE REPORT WON'T STOP DEREGULATORY PUSH: EPA head 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 said that the federal government's major climate change report won't change his plans to repeal the Clean Power Plan.

"We're taking the very necessary step to evaluate our authority under the Clean Air Act and we'll take steps that are required to issue a subsequent rule. That's our focus," Scott Pruitt told USA Today in an interview published Wednesday.

"Does this report have any bearing on that? No it doesn't. It doesn't impact the withdrawal and it doesn't impact the replacement."

It was Pruitt's first statement on the climate report since its release on Friday.

The report's conclusions directly contrast with Trump administration officials' comments on a number of fronts, including the degree to which human activity, via greenhouse gases, is responsible for climate change.

Read more here.


FEDS SUBPOENA ICAHN: Investigators have subpoenaed Carl Icahn and his investment company for information related to his work on the Renewable Fuel Standard while an adviser to Trump.

Icahn Enterprises LP revealed in a federal filing on Friday that the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York is "seeking production of information pertaining to our and Mr. Icahn's activities relating to the Renewable Fuels Standard and Mr. Icahn's role as an advisor to the President."

"We are cooperating with the request and are providing information in response to the subpoena," the company wrote in a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing.

Icahn, a billionaire investor and refinery owner, served as a special adviser to Trump earlier this year.

He urged Trump to support a proposal shifting the task of complying with the RFS to a new segment of the production line in a way that benefits refiners.

Democrats have long raised questions about Icahn's role in the administration. He stepped down from his advisory role in August.

Read more here.


HOUSE PASSES HYDRO BILL: The House on Wednesday approved a bill to overhaul the permitting process for hydropower projects.

The Hydropower Policy Modernization Act speeds up the timeline for approving hydro projects and aims to run all permitting decisions through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The House approved the bill on a 257-166 vote.

"Ensuring the stability of the grid and improving infrastructure continue to be at forefront of the national debate, which is why modernizing the hydropower licensing process should be a top priority for Congress and the administration," said Linda Church Ciocci, the Executive Director of the National Hydropower Association.

"As an industry, we urge the Senate to act swiftly to pass a bill that will bring transparency, predictability and greater coordination to the process."



Two people were injured Wednesday morning when an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico caught fire, the Times-Picayune reports.

European regulators are considering even tighter standards for automobile pollution, Bloomberg reports.

California officials approved a 10-year plan aimed at saving the Salton Sea, the Desert Sun reports.



Check out Wednesday's stories ...

-House panel passes bill to boost drilling on federal land, offshore  

-Senate moves towards confirming Trump EPA air nominee

-Durbin blocks Interior nominees from confirmation

-Eric Trump's brother-in-law promoted at Department of Energy

-Feds subpoena former Trump adviser Icahn over biofuels push

-Official National Park account: There's 'overwhelming consensus' on climate change

-Senators tear into controversial Trump environment nominee

-EPA head: Climate report won't impact Obama rule repeal

-Senate panel advances Trump's controversial NASA nominee


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