Senate committee stirs controversy with narrow approval of four EPA nominees
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday narrowly approved four nominees for assistant administrator posts at the Environmental Protection Agency, including two that have come under sharp criticism from Democratic members of the committee.
The committee vote cleared William Wehrum and Michael Dourson for a senate floor vote on their appointments to head the Office of Air and Radiation and the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, respectively. Both have been criticized for their ties to industry,
- The committee also approved Matthew Leopold as assistant administrator for the Office of General Counsel and David Ross as assistant administrator for the Office of Water.
The Trump administration’s remake of the EPA continued to move forward Wednesday with four appointees narrowly passing a Senate committee vote along party lines.
The vote came as the EPA and the Department of Energy announced completion of agency reviews directed by President Donald Trump that are aimed at reducing regulatory burdens. Among other items, the reviews will focus on New Source Review, National Ambient Air Quality Standards and on National Environmental Policy Act regulations.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt earlier this month put in motion efforts to rescind the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. The plan, designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions by limiting emissions from existing power plants, was on hold awaiting court action when Trump took office.
Among the four new EPA nominees Wehrum and Dourson attracted the most immediate criticism. Sen. Tom Carper (D), the committee's ranking Democrat, told Reuters they were of “grave concern,” saying Dourson was “one of the most troubling nominees I have ever considered during my time on this committee.”
If approved by a Senate vote, Dourson would oversee implementation of the updated Toxic Substances Control Act. Critics noted that Dourson has been on the payroll of manufacturers and other interested parties for work on 20 of the chemicals that he could be called on to regulate.
For Wehrum, it is his second chance to take the post in the Office of Air and Radiation, which oversees regulations that pertain to air pollution and climate change.
Wehrum was nominated for the same post, which is widely considered the second most important job at the EPA, in 2006. His appointment was blocked by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) of California. Senate rules at the time required 60 votes for approval. Appointees can now pass with 50 votes.
Wehrum, an attorney, has represented dozens of industry groups and corporations, including the American Petroleum Institute and Kinder Morgan.
“All four of these nominees, especially Bill Wehrum and Michael Dourson, would accelerate Scott Pruitt's mission to dismantle the EPA from the inside,” Sara Chieffo, vice president for government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters, said.
- Common Dreams Sworn enemies of EPA now just one step from heading key agency offices
- The Washington Examiner Senate advances two of Trump's EPA nominees despite Democratic complaints
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