Senate EPW Committee to vote on CEQ, EPA picks

Source: Kevin Bogardus, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, November 27, 2017

Two of President Trump’s top environmental nominees will likely take a step closer to Senate confirmation this week.

On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will vote on the nominations of Kathleen Hartnett White to be chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Andrew Wheeler to be deputy U.S. EPA administrator.

At a confirmation hearing earlier this month, Hartnett White, a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, faced tough questions from both Democratic and Republican senators (Greenwire, Nov. 8).

Farm-state lawmakers repeatedly asked about her past criticism of biofuels. Hartnett White had called for the repeal of the renewable fuel standard and blamed ethanol for causing food shortages. But at the hearing, she downplayed her prior positions, saying she had used flawed data in her analysis on ethanol.

Bill Wehrum found his nomination to lead EPA’s air office held up over similar concerns about the RFS by GOP senators. Wehrum eventually won confirmation on a 49-47 vote after Administrator Scott Pruitt pledged to abide by the biofuel program.

Democrats have also sought to bring greater exposure to Hartnett White’s past comments on several other issues, including climate change. She again often walked back many of her past comments during her hearing.

“Just to be a completely different person and to say things that are entirely unrelated, unconnected to what she said for years just was breathtaking,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member on the EPW panel, said regarding Hartnett White (E&E Daily, Nov. 9).

Wheeler, a former longtime aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and the EPW Committee, was a familiar face for the panel’s members in both parties. But he too came under scrutiny for his lobbying record as a principal with Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting since leaving Capitol Hill.

Democratic senators have sought a copy of an “action plan” authored by coal giant Murray Energy Corp., one of Wheeler’s former clients, that is meant to guide Trump administration energy policy.

Wheeler was questioned over the plan during this month’s hearing. He confirmed that he had seen the document but did not have a copy (E&E News PM, Nov. 8).

Schedule: The markup is Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 10 a.m. in 406 Dirksen.