White House to Pull Nominee to Head Environment Council

Kathleen Hartnett White has history of rejecting climate change science

The south side of The White House.(Congressional Quarterly/Scott J. Ferrell)
The south side of The White House.(Congressional Quarterly/Scott J. Ferrell)
Posted February 4, 2018 at 1:37pm

The White House will withdraw the nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White, the former Texas environmental official tapped to lead the Council on Environmental Quality, a White House official said Sunday.

The Washington Post first reported the planned withdrawal on Saturday.

Her nomination had been seen as troubled in recent days. Democrats and some Midwestern Republicans worried Hartnett White’s previous comments calling the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard unethical would lead to a weaker biofuels program.

Her nomination was advanced by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on a party-line vote in November, but she was unable to gain enough Republican support for a floor vote.

Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming, who has praised Hartnett White as having “broad” experience in environmental issues, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. She is a former member and commissioner of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The White House council coordinates federal environmental policy and actions among agencies and with states.

During a Nov. 8 hearing before the committee, Hartnett White was pressed by lawmakers of both parties on several past statements, including her defense of carbon dioxide emissions and rejection of climate change science. Democrats argued her views were too “extreme” and that she had shown “disrespect” for science and environmental laws.

The committee’s top Democrat Thomas R. Carper of Delaware had threatened to try to block her confirmation.

“My colleagues in Congress know well that I am one of the first to reach across the aisle to find reasonable, principled compromises, but in this case, it was abundantly clear very early on that heading up the Council on Environmental Quality wasn’t the right job for Ms. White,” Carper said in a Saturday statement.

“Withdrawing Kathleen Hartnett White’s nomination is the right thing to do, and I believe it is past time for this administration to nominate a thoughtful environmental and public health champion to lead this critical office in the federal government.”

Environmentalists, who had been alarmed by her nomination, celebrated the news.

“Kathleen Hartnett White is a conspiracy theorist and anti-science extremist who would threaten public health as the White House’s top environmental adviser,” said Sara Chieffo of the League of Conservation Voters in a statement. “This is a victory for science, and Trump would do well to listen to our voices and nominate someone who will put communities, not polluters, first.”  

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