On Tuesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Susan Bodine, President Trump’s nominee for a position at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While Bodine has received bipartisan praise and support, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) has refused to vote on her nomination until the EPA responds to letters from the committee requesting unrelated information.
“We’ve received 20 letters from Senator Carper and 11 have already received a detailed response,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told PJ Media. “Of the remaining 9 letters: 7 were received in the past month and we are working to respond as quickly as possible.”
Wilcox insisted that “EPA staff is committed to being responsive to Congress.”
Nevertheless, Carper said in a statement that he would oppose advancing EPA nominees until the agency responds to all his requests.
Carper praised Bodine’s “resume,” but insisted he would block her nomination. “Specifically, I noted the multiple letters from EPW members that have still received no response,” the senator said. “I do not believe [Bodine’s] Senate bosses would stand for such blatant disregard from an agency, and Democratic members will not either.”
“Until members of this committee receive adequate responses from [EPA Administrator Scott] Pruitt so that we can all exercise our oversight responsibilities, I feel I have no choice but to oppose the consideration of any additional EPA nominees,” Carper added.
But Wilcox argued that the EPA was not showing “blatant disregard,” but rather was taking reasonable time to respond to the requests. The agency has responded to 11 out of the 20 letters, and 7 out of the 9 outstanding requests came in the past 30 days.
In his statement, Carper specifically mentioned “an inquiry on EPA’s enforcement activities.” This inquiry was made on May 20, following a New York Times report on the oil and gas production company Devon Energy, which reversed its willingness to address air pollution violations shortly after Pruitt’s arrival as EPA administrator. As of Monday, June 12, only 23 days have passed since the request was made.
As Wilcox noted, the EPA has already responded to 11 of the 20 EPW committee requests, including a March 21 inquiry into actions on the Clean Water Rule, an April 7 request about the Clean Power Plan executive order, and a request last month about Pruitt’s decision not to participate in the Oklahoma GOP Gala.
One response was fulfilled in no more than three days. The Senate committee sent a letter on May 2 asking about Pruitt’s lawsuit to overturn the EPA’s 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone while he was attorney general of Oklahoma. The EPA sent its final response on May 5.
Do these quick responses reveal “blatant disregard” for the Senate committee? Or is Carper showing fake outrage in order to stall one of the president’s nominees?
Bodine has received fervent praise on both sides of the aisle. She has previously spent three years in the EPA, as assistant administrator for the office of solid waste and emergency response, and two and a half years working for the Senate EPW committee. Trump nominated her for the role of assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance (OECA).
“I have found Susan to be fair minded, clear thinking, and strategic in her approach, as well as effective in her leadership,” Scott Fulton, president of the Environmental Law Institute and former General Counsel at the EPA under President Obama, said in a statement. “She has a deep understanding of EPA and the EPA-State relationship, which will equip her well to lead OECA.”
Marcus Peacock, deputy administrator at the EPA from 2005 to 2009, said, “I have known Susan for over 20 years. I can think of no better person to lead the enforcement office at EPA.” He called her “a perfect pick.”
Avi Garbow, another general counsel at the EPA during Obama’s tenure, called Bodine “a seasoned environmental lawyer and a skilled advocate.”
Roger Martella, a third EPA general counsel, this time under Bush’s tenure, said Bodine “epitomizes the best character and traits we can ask of public servants: tireless and unflappable commitment to the mission of environmental protection and promoting human health, protective of transparency and process in her decision making, objective and apolitical approach to leadership, and empowerment of career decision makers in government.”
Marianne Horinko, an acting administrator of the EPA during Obama’s tenure, called Bodine “extremely qualified” for the job. “Susan is well suited to carry out the mission of the Administration, and to protect clean air, land and water for the American people.”
Perhaps Carper should listen to this chorus of support (and there are many more not mentioned here), and stop obstructing Bodine’s nomination. President Trump is far enough behind when it comes to nominating staff for key posts in the administration, without Senate Democrats further blocking this central aspect of his presidential duties.