WASHINGTON — Kathleen Hartnett White, a climate change skeptic and former chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, faced tough questions from Democrats on Wednesday during her nomination hearing for a top environmental post.
Democrats on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works grilled White about remarks she’s made in her role as a fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank in Austin. They pressed White, who President Donald Trump nominated to head the Council on Environmental Quality, on her views over climate change, particulate matter and the Renewable Fuel Standard Program.
“It seems to me you don’t believe climate change is real,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said to White. “You’re not a scientist, are you?”
“No,” White replied. “But in my personal capacity, I have questions that remain unanswered,” adding that scientists need to have a more precise understanding of how much human activity impacts climate change.
Andrew Wheeler, a coal and nuclear lobbyist, was also part of Wednesday’s hearing for his nomination to be deputy administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. However, much of the three-hour hearing was focused on White.
Despite the tough questions she faced from Democrats, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the committee, said he expects the committee will approve her nomination. After the committee’s approval, White must be confirmed by the full Senate.
White’s comments have also concerned environmental advocates, who sounded the alarm over her nomination to head the federal office that coordinates between agencies. Nearly 50 groups signed a letter Tuesday urging the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to reject her nomination.
“Ms. White has been a consistent science denier regarding the overwhelming scientific consensus on human-fueled climate change, making her unfit to lead an office charged with coordinating how the federal government analyzes and discloses climate change impacts in environmental reviews required by the National Environmental Policy Act,” says the letter, addressed to Barrasso and Tom Carper of Delaware, the committee’s top Democrat.
If nominated, White will join a number of Trump administration officials who doubt the scientific consensus behind human-caused climate change. On Wednesday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told USA Today that a newly released government report blaming human activity for the rise of global temperatures does not impact his decision to roll back the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.