EPW Business Meeting Statement

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a business meeting to consider the nominations of William Charles McIntosh to be Assistant Administrator, Office of International and Tribal Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Peter C. Wright to be Assistant Administrator, Office of Land and Emergency Management, EPA; Mary Bridget Neumayr to be a Member of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ); and John C. Fleming to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. In addition, the business meeting will consider the naming of two federal courthouses in Texas and Minnesota, and 6 General Service Administration (GSA) resolutions.  Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Good morning and thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this business meeting today.  We have a relatively brief, but important, agenda, and once we’ve completed the markup, we look forward to hearing from Acting Administrator Wheeler.

“Today, we are considering six GSA prospectuses. Some of them are very time-sensitive, which is why we have agreed to proceed. However, GSA still has not answered our questions about the status of the FBI Headquarters or provided complete responses to requests for information on the Trump Hotel lease.  I continue to urge the GSA to work with the Committee as we fulfill our oversight responsibilities. We also have two courthouse naming bills before us today, which comply with our Committee’s rules and are not controversial.

“We are also considering some nominations.  The first nominee we are voting on today is Mary Neumayr, who’s been nominated to lead the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).  Compared to the last Trump CEQ Chair nominee, Ms. Neumayr is a welcomed improvement; however, to be honest with you, while I was encouraged by many of her answers during her hearing last month, I am troubled by a number of her answers to our questions for the record in the days following that hearing, creating some reservations about supporting her nomination.

“For example, under Ms. Neumayr’s leadership, CEQ has signaled an intent to consider significant revisions to the way the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) operates. From her answers to questions for the record, it is unclear whether those revisions will prioritize environmental protection, as is the requirement under current law, or if there will be a rigorous public comment process before any changes are made.   As I stated in a letter to Ms. Neumayr just last month, the risk of limiting public involvement is particularly concerning given that the very intent of NEPA is to ensure that the Federal government hears from the public.

“In addition, Ms. Neumayr refused to support the reinstatement of tools that help American communities become more resilient to extreme weather and climate change.  Without extra planning and targeted investments – I know we’ll continue to lose lives, livelihoods and taxpayer dollars. For these reasons, I will refrain from supporting Ms. Neumayr at this time, although I hope that we can have further discussions to come to some resolutions on these and several other important matters.

“The second nomination we are considering today is Chad McIntosh to lead EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Government Affairs. This position serves as a liaison between international and tribal communities and the EPA. American Indian and Alaska Native communities across the United States face unique challenges, in many of the states represented on our Committee. I am concerned that Mr. McIntosh has had minimal interactions with tribal communities and limited international experience.

“Next, a few words about Peter Wright who has been nominated to serve as EPA Assistant Administrator leading the Office of Land and Emergency Management.  This office is responsible for helping states manage our nation’s waste, clean up contaminated sites and respond to natural and environmental disasters.  Mr. Wright has spent much of his career at Dow, now DowDupont, where he worked on the company’s Superfund sites. As I noted during his confirmation hearing, Mr. Wright agreed to recuse himself from working on any sites for which DowDupont may have liability. I commended him at that time for doing so. However, his recusals were all contingent upon Senate confirmation.  Since his hearing in June, Mr. Wright has joined EPA as a Special Counsel. It is unclear what, if any, recusal or ethics agreements he is currently abiding by. This fact, along with many troubling responses to questions on how he would lead the Superfund office, have given me pause over his nomination at this time.

“Let me note that, along with other Members of the Committee, I have sent letters to Mr. Wright and Mr. McIntosh asking them for additional information, and they have yet to respond.  I also note that of the 60 oversight letters Members of the Committee have sent EPA, we still have received complete responses to only 24.

“The final nominee we are considering today is Dr. John Fleming to head the Economic Development Administration. This agency plays a critical role in supporting infrastructure and economic development throughout the nation and in many communities in the home states of all our committee members. So I remain troubled that during the nominee’s time as a Member of Congress, he voted twice to eliminate funding for the agency he has now been nominated to lead.   In a question I submitted for the record, I asked Dr. Fleming if he would commit to support EDA funding if confirmed. Unfortunately, his response to support the President’s future EDA budget proposals misses the mark, since as President Trump has previously proposed to eliminate the EDA. This answer is not good enough.

“Having said that, Mr. Chairman, and I am not completely without hope that in the end, we may be to find a ways to proceed with full Senate consideration of these nominees.”