EPW Hearing Statement: Nominations of Ms. Kathleen Hartnett White of Texas to be Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and Mr. Andrew Wheeler to be Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held the hearing, “Hearing on the Nominations of Kathleen Hartnett White to be a Member of the Council on Environmental Quality and Andrew Wheeler to be Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.” Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Let me begin by thanking both of you for appearing before us today. Before I discuss your nominations, I must once again note my concern that Administrator Pruitt has yet to appear before this Committee to testify on the EPA budget request, more than a month after the start of the fiscal year. It turns out that this week, he’s reportedly headed to a luxury resort in South Carolina, on yet another taxpayer-funded trip, rather than appearing before the Environment and Public Works Committee.

“Mr. Pruitt has also yet to make additional progress in answering the mail; of the 30 public letters requesting information led by Democratic Members of this Committee, he has provided satisfactory responses to only ten. More effort must be made before I can agree to support the confirmation of any EPA nominees. 

“Turning to today’s hearing, we have two nominees before us who have been nominated to serve in very important capacities. The Council on Environmental Quality is led by the White House’s top environmental official. C.E.Q. has historically played a vital role in coordinating the efforts of all federal agencies on cross-cutting and important environmental issues. For example, C.E.Q. co-chaired President Obama’s Climate Adaptation Task Force to help communities strengthen their resilience to extreme weather and prepare for other impacts of climate change.

“C.E.Q. leads the office of Federal Sustainability, which develops policies to modernize federal property and save money through increased energy efficiency and other purchasing requirements. C.E.Q. also plays a key role in identifying ways to make sure federal agencies work together well and in a coordinated fashion. And, C.E.Q. helped to get the almost unanimously enacted Toxic Substances Control Act over the finish line by coordinating with a wide range of stakeholders during negotiations between the House and the Senate.

“The nominee to carry on this important work must be someone who can build alliances, work with Congress and be a credible leader. Unfortunately, the nominee before us today, Kathleen Hartnett White, does not, in my opinion, meet this standard. In her years serving on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and thereafter, Ms. White has shown a disdain for science, a disregard for the laws and regulations already on the books, and a staggering disrespect for people who have views with whom she disagrees. Ms. White – who has been asked to hold the top environmental position in the White House – has shown that she is not only a science denier, but actively promotes misinformation on climate, ozone, mercury, particulate matter and other known health hazards that impact our air and waterways.

“From describing the Renewable Fuel Standard as unethical, to comparing people who believe in climate science to pagans, to saying that environmentalism will  lead to mass starvation or other large-scale calamities, her tone, her words and her actions are simply unacceptable. 

“Our second nominee, Andrew Wheeler, once occupied a seat on this side of the dais and is no stranger to the Environment and Public Works Committee. As a longtime staffer for the senior senator from Oklahoma, Mr. Wheeler was someone with whom we didn’t always agree on each and every policy, but he did prove to be one with whom we were able to work together on policies that we did agree on. Given the polarizing nature of Scott Pruitt’s EPA, as well as the polarizing nature of one of Mr. Wheeler’s long-time clients, Bob Murray of Murray Energy, I’m anxious to hear from Mr. Wheeler about whether he can assure Members of this Committee that his confirmation to be the Deputy Administrator of the EPA would not be a ‘more of the same’ approach at the agency. 

“I’d like to know if Mr. Wheeler can leave his clients and conflicts of interest behind and start over with the interests of the country as his number one priority. I also want to understand whether, unlike Ms. White, he can embrace and acknowledge accepted environmental and public health science.

“Thank you very much Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.”