The nomination of an outspoken climate change denier to a federal environmental post in the Trump administration has been withdrawn after months of opposition, according to the Washington Post.
Kathleen Hartnett White was nominated by Trump to lead the Council on Environmental Quality, but her performance during Senate confirmation hearings was heavily criticized, and her history of casting doubt on climate change and celebrating fossil fuels sparked disapproval from the scientific community, the Post notes.
The Trump administration withdrew her nomination on Feb. 3.
“I’ve been in this process for more than a year,” she wrote in a statement, adding that the withdrawal is “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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The Council of Environmental Quality assesses the environmental impact of policies across government agencies on issues such as the sustainability of infrastructure and air quality.
Hartnett White has led the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and is currently a fellow at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.
She has written that carbon is the “gas of life” and therefore can’t be a pollutant, that climate change is “a creed, a faith, a dogma that has little to do with science,” and that renewable energy policies are “unreliable and parasitic,” according to the New York Times.
During her Senate confirmation hearings, she stumbled over basic science questions and remained skeptical of climate change.
In one widely criticized exchange, Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse asked Hartnett White if the oceans are affected by climate change and if they absorb excess heat from global warming.
“I don’t have numbers like that,” she said. “I believe that there are differences of opinions on that, that there’s not one right answer.”
Whitehouse then repeatedly asked variations on this question, which he implied should be basic knowledge for a lead environmental regulator, and Hartnett White fumbled over responses.
Please check out this video. Kathleen Hartnett White was going to be the environment specialist n the Trump administration. She has now been dropped, apparently. But the video is worth watching: https://t.co/MchAVceGRz— Mark Alexander (@markalexander_1) February 4, 2018
The ocean has absorbed 93% of the excess heat caused by climate change, which has disrupted global ocean dynamics and climate patterns more broadly.
After her hearings, more than 300 scientists called for her nomination to be rejected and signed a letter saying that her appointment “would have serious consequences for people and the ecosystems of the only planet that can support us.”
Other scientists went further in their condemnation of the nomination.
“A while ago, I wrote that many Trump appointees to science-based positions could be considered to either have deep conflicts of interest, to be fundamentally opposed to the mission of the agency they were to lead or totally unqualified. Hartnett-White was all three — a trifecta,” Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the Post.
Hartnett White is not the first nomination by the Trump administration to have alleged conflicts of interest and views that seem to contradict the agency they’re tasked with leading.
The former director of the Centers for Disease Control, Brenda Fitzgerald, resigned after it was revealed that she had purchased tobacco industry stocks after assuming office.
The interim head of the Consumer Protection Agency, Mick Mulvaney, once introduced legislation to abolish the agency.
Rick Perry, the head of the Department of Energy, also called for the agency he leads to be closed.
And Scott Pruitt, the director of the Environmental Protection Agency, built his reputation by suing the EPA.
Hartnett White’s withdrawal opens the way for another nomination for the CEQ. One of the candidates, according to the Times, is a leading coal lobbyist.
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