White House withdraws Hartnett White nomination for CEQ
The post has been updated to reflect the White House's official withdrawal of Kathleen Hartnett White's nomination.
- The Trump administration officially withdrew the nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality on Monday.
- Hartnett White drew fierce opposition from Democrats due to her denial of mainstream science on climate change and other environmental issues. She cleared a committee vote in November but then had to be renominated after her nomination stalled in the full Senate.
- Last week, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) told reporters that Senate Democrats would oppose other key nominations, including the No. 2 slot at the Environmental Protection Agency, unless the White House pulled Hartnett White from consideration.
The White House CEQ conducts $21 billion in federal energy purchases a year and oversees project reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act — a key regulatory law for the power sector that the Trump administration wants to streamline to boost infrastructure development.
The growing focus on infrastructure added to Democratic concern over Hartnett White's nomination. While the White House has nominated a number of top officials who challenge established science on climate change, including the head of the EPA, Hartnett White is perhaps the most vociferous in her denial.
The former head of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality referred to a concern for climate change as a "kind of paganism" for "secular elites" in 2016. In her November 2017 confirmation hearing, she revived an old fossil fuel industry line that carbon dioxide is actually good for the planet.
"As an atmospheric gas, [CO2] is a plant nutrient," Hartnett White said. "It’s likely CO2 emissions from human activity have some influence on the climate, but CO2 in the atmosphere has none of the characteristics of a pollutant that contaminates and fouls and has a direct impact on human life."
Democrats objected to that and other comments, like a response to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) when Hartnett White doubted the connection between climate change and rising sea levels.
“A nominee who can’t follow the thread from carbon pollution, to ocean warming, to sea level rise, who imagines science that is not there, and ignores science that is there, is a preposterous nominee,” Whitehouse said during the hearing.
Those comments led Democrats to block Hartnett White's confirmation by the full Senate late last year, along with the nomination of coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to be assistant secretary at EPA. After an oversight hearing last week, Sen. Carper told EPA administrator Scott Pruitt that Wheeler's nomination would be stuck so long as Hartnett White was still on the table.
"I made it clear we were going to find it difficult to move [nominees] forward expeditiously as long as the nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White was still out there," Sen. Carper after a committee. "I explained to him ... she sat right at that table and gave perhaps the worst performance I've seen in 17 years for a witness for a major institution at this administration and he needs to be mindful of that."
In a statement, the White House indicated the opposition to other nominations factored into the situation. Hartnett White asked that her name be withdrawn "in the best interest of facilitating confirmation of the President’s nominees throughout his administration, as well the needs of my family and work.”
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