White House Withdraws Nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White to the Council on Environmental Quality

On Sunday, the White House withdrew its nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White to head the Council on Environmental Quality.  According to the White House, Hartnett White asked to be withdrawn from consideration for the position. The White House had renominated her in January  after the full Senate failed to vote on her nomination in the last session. There had been widespread opposition from Democrats to her nomination.

Kathleen Hartnett White was the Chairwoman and Commissioner of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for six years, beginning in 2001. Before that, she served on the Texas Water Development Board. She is currently a distinguished senior fellow-in-residence and director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. She also co-authored a book that makes a positive case for fossil fuel energy, Fueling freedom: Exposing the mad war on energy with Steve Moore.

Much of the opposition to Hartnett White’s nomination stemmed from her history as a climate skeptic. In the past she has taken issue with the classification of carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and characterizing it as the “gas of life”. During her confirmation hearing back in November, her answers proved particularly troubling to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). Whitehouse tweeted later that night that she “outright rejects basic science.” In response to questioning from Senator Whitehouse regarding the amount of heat from the atmosphere that is stored in oceans, Hartnett White responded, “I don’t have numbers like that . . . I believe that there are differences of opinions on that.” I response to Senator Cardin’s (D-M.D.) question on whether she believes if climate change is real, Ms. Hartnett White responded, “I am uncertain. No I’m not. I jumped ahead. Climate change is of course real.” She went on to clarify that she is uncertain about the extent to which climate change is caused by humans. Although she made it through the Committee on Environment and Public Works, despite the criticism of her answers, the full Senate never voted on her nomination.

The Council on Environmental Quality was established under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to ensure that Federal agencies met the obligations instilled by NEPA. The Council issues guidance and interprets regulations that are intended to implement the goals of NEPA. The Council is also responsible for revising agency NEPA procedures; resolving disputes between agencies, other government entities, and the public; overseeing federal implementation of the environmental impact assessment process; and developing and recommending national policies to the President that will improve environmental quality and goals.

Additional Readings:

Eilperin, Juliet & Brady Dennis, White House withdraws controversial nominee to head Council on Environmental Quality, Washington Post, February 4, 2018.

Friedman, Lisa, Trump to withdraw nomination of climate skeptic as top environmental advisorN.Y. Times, February 4, 2018.

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