Hearing set for EPA, NRC picks

Source: Kevin Bogardus and Geof Koss, E&E News reporters • Posted: Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Senators now anticipate holding a postponed hearing on U.S. EPA and Nuclear Regulatory Commission nominees next week.

“We’ve moved it to next week,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, told E&E News. “We’ll actually do two nomination hearings next week on Wednesday and Thursday, so we’ll have probably seven or eight total nominees at the EPW Committee.”

Last week, the panel was scheduled to hold a hearing on EPA nominees, as well as Jeff Baran, who is under consideration for another term as NRC commissioner.

But that was postponed because the Senate left town early for the Jewish holidays, Barrasso said.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the committee’s ranking member, also said he was planning on hearing from the nominees next week.

“I’m expecting there will be a hearing next week that will focus on at least four nominees for EPA and hopefully one for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. And I don’t know if they’ll be together or separate hearings. I was anticipating that they’ll all be together,” Carper said.

Under the Trump administration, EPA still only has one Senate-confirmed appointee in place — Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The EPW Committee has moved through Susan Bodine, President Trump’s nominee for EPA enforcement chief, but the full chamber has yet to vote on her nomination. The president was slow to nominate others at the agency at the start of his administration, but Trump now has put forth picks to lead EPA’s air, chemicals, legal and water offices, along with Bodine.

Republican senators have grown frustrated as they wait to fill out EPA’s leadership ranks.

“We need to get all of these,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), an EPW member. “There is no one who wants all those people confirmed more than I do. I’m impatient.”

Trump’s EPA nominees are expected to face tough questioning from Democrats on the committee. Environmental groups have already begun to rev up campaigns highlighting the industry ties of William Wehrum, nominee for EPA air chief, and Michael Dourson, picked to lead the agency’s chemicals office.

“Some of them are more promising than others,” Carper said about Trump’s EPA nominees. “I’ve heard from a number of my colleagues on the committee that they’re troubled by the records of some of the nominees, not all.”

Asked to specify who those nominees are, Carper said, “The usual suspects. I think most people know who they are.”

The Senate may get moving on the rest of its agenda now that Republicans have pulled back again on pushing through health care legislation. Inhofe joked that senators have time now to consider nominations.

“We have got time now. We don’t have any other scheduling problems, so we might as well go ahead and do it,” Inhofe said.