EPW Business Meeting Statement: Consideration of CEQ and EPA Nominees

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a business meeting to consider the nominations of Kathleen Hartnett White, of Texas, to be a Member of the Council on Environmental Quality, Andrew Wheeler, of Virginia, to be Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and 19 General Services Administration resolutions. Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me begin by noting that we’ll be approving 19 General Services Administration lease prospectus resolutions today. We have not acted on these resolutions previously because we’ve been waiting for responses from GSA to a number of inquiries we had submitted this year. Your Democratic colleagues on this committee are appreciative of GSA’s recent efforts to respond to our oversight requests. While we continue to review the content of these responses to make sure they are complete, GSA has acted with sufficient good faith to allow us to move forward today.

“With that said, let me turn to the nomination of Andrew Wheeler to be the Deputy Administrator of EPA. During his hearing, and in response to questions for the record, I believe that Mr. Wheeler demonstrated a more transparent and straightforward approach to engaging with Members of this Committee than any other Trump Administration EPA nominee has thus far. I find that encouraging, and I hope you do, too.

“However, to be honest with you, I remain less encouraged by Administrator Pruitt’s progress in responding to the 31 letters requesting information that have been sent to him by Democratic Members of this Committee. Thus far, he has only adequately responded to 12 of those letters. Six of the unanswered letters are more than six months old. That’s just unacceptable.

“Having said that, it is my understanding that EPA is making an effort to respond to more of our letters and soon. We look forward to reviewing those responses, and the related documents we have requested, and to receiving responses to future oversight inquiries on a timely basis going forward.

“Let me say this as clearly as I know how. If the responses that are being crafted by EPA now are completed in short order and are truly responsive, we’ll make progress on a number of nominations. If the responses are further delayed, or are unresponsive, that progress may not be realized.  

“I’d like to devote the remainder of my opening statement this morning to the nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White to be the White House’s top environmental official. The importance of the Council on Environmental Quality cannot be overstated. It has historically played a vital role in coordinating the efforts of all federal agencies on cross-cutting and important environmental issues. I know this from first-hand accounts from one of my earliest mentors, Russell Peterson who served as CEQ Chair during the Nixon and Ford Administrations.

“Before serving in the White House, Russ Peterson had a distinguished career as a chemist and senior leader at the DuPont Company and went on to serve as Governor of Delaware from 1969 through the beginning of 1973. Despite his being a Republican and my being a Democrat, Russ graciously served as a mentor to me from the time we met in 1976 until his death in 2011. He spoke fondly of his time as CEQ Chair and explained to me, on more than one occasion, the real importance and influence of the job. As CEQ Chair, you are like an orchestra conductor – not playing the instruments, but making sure everyone is playing from the same sheet music and in harmony.

“Make no mistake about it, CEQ’s role, responsibility and influence is considerable and consequential, and it has been for many years. That is why I am deeply disappointed in the nomination of Ms. White, whose views are extreme, whose words are staggeringly inappropriate, and who shows a remarkable disrespect for science, the environmental laws that are on the books, and our federal government. Let’s take a look at her record. 

“Ms. White refers to renewable energy sources as a ‘false hope,’ and ‘parasitic.’ She’s called repeatedly for the repeal of the solar and wind tax credits. She’s also called for the repeal of the Renewable Fuels Standard repeatedly over the past decade, stating the program is ‘counterproductive,’ ‘ethically offensive,’ and ‘destructive.’

“Ms. White has compared the views of those who believe that human activity is causing climate change to those of ‘pagans’ and ‘communists’ – those are her words not mine. She’s suggested that policies to reduce global warming pollution could lead to poverty and even concentration camps. She has said – several times – that fossil fuels ended slavery.

“Ms. White consistently denies the cause and impacts of climate change. She has repeatedly stated that we would benefit from more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, not less, and she has actively supported groups that promote this extreme point of view.

“Moreover, Ms. White has repeatedly contradicted the accepted views of previous Republican and Democratic administrations alike about the health effects of air pollution, saying that ‘people do not die of particulate matter levels,’ that ozone isn’t harmful ‘unless you put your mouth over the tailpipe of a car for eight hours a day,’ and that the ‘Clean Air Act no longer provides an effective, scientifically credible, or economically viable means of air quality management.’

“Nothing that Ms. White said at her hearing or in her responses to post-hearing questions provides me with as much as a shred of confidence in her suitability for almost any Senate-confirmed role, let alone one that carries with it the responsibilities of chairing the Council on Environmental Quality in this or any other administration.

“If she is confirmed to serve in this important leadership position, I believe we will have failed in our responsibility as United States Senators to provide advice and consent, and we will have failed the people of this country. I cannot urge my colleagues more strongly to oppose her nomination.”