CEQ pick’s biofuel views may slow confirmation

Source: Kevin Bogardus and Geof Koss, E&E News reporters • Posted: Monday, November 6, 2017

Kathleen Hartnett White’s record of opposition against biofuels could cost her votes from farm-state Republican senators key to her confirmation.

Hartnett White, President Trump’s nominee for chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, comes to Capitol Hill this week.

Appearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, she can expect questions over her persistent criticism of ethanol and renewable fuel mandates over the years.

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) wouldn’t comment when asked about the CEQ nominee’s views on biofuels. “I’m withholding judgment right now,” she told reporters last week.

Fischer is a member of the EPW panel. With an 11-10 majority on the committee, Republicans cannot afford to lose one vote if they hope to advance Hartnett White.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), another EPW member, stalled the nomination of Bill Wehrum for chief of U.S. EPA’s air office after the agency hinted it planned to lower biofuel requirements.

Once Administrator Scott Pruitt pledged to keep current levels, Wehrum’s nomination then moved through the committee and may pass the Senate this week (see related story).

Hartnett White, a senior fellow with the conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation, has been fervent in her renewable fuels critique.

In a 2008 statement, she said ethanol was causing “a global food crisis” and that Congress should end “its destructive food-as-fuel folly.”

“It is time to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard — not to expand or entrench this market distortion,” Hartnett White wrote in a 2013 op-ed. “Genuine snake oil, in fact, might be a more thermodynamically efficient source than natural gas or corn.”

Further, in her 2016 book “Fueling Freedom,” she and co-author Stephen Moore repeatedly bash ethanol, calling it “an extremely inefficient and environmentally questionable transportation fuel.”

Hartnett White, a former chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, has also questioned climate change science and has been an unabashed defender of carbon dioxide, seeing more carbon as a plus for the planet.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the committee’s ranking member, said in a statement to E&E News that he and his colleagues will have “serious questions” for the CEQ nominee at the hearing.

“On environmental issues across the board, Kathleen Hartnett White has consistently pushed the most radical views, even by Trump nominee standards,” said Carper.

“Her record clearly shows that she has taken extreme stances on matters of basic science, like the dangers of smog and contaminated drinking water, not to mention climate change.”

Nevertheless, Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) expressed confidence that his panel will be able to move forward on Trump’s picks.

He said both Hartnett White and Andrew Wheeler, nominee for deputy EPA administrator, who will also appear at this week’s hearing, have been meeting with senators to share their views prior to coming before the committee.

“I’m committed to the president’s nominees, and we’re going to go ahead with the hearing next week,” Barrasso told reporters last week.