The White House has renominated Kathleen Hartnett White to lead the Council on Environmental Quality. The controversial former Texas regulator once called climate change-inducing carbon dioxide a “harmless trace gas” that was merely “plant food.”
President Donald Trump resubmitted Hartnett White’s name amid a barrage of nominations sent to the Senate on Monday, just weeks after Democrats waged a last-minute effort to derail her nomination at the end of the legislative session in December.
Her previous testimony during a confirmation hearing was disastrous, prompting some senators to call her unqualified and lob allegations that she rejects basic science after she struggled to answer questions about the mass bleaching of coral reefs and the scientific consensus surrounding climate change.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who at the time said Hartnett White’s testimony was “some of the most embarrassing” he’d ever seen, this week called for her to answer questions about her qualifications once again, and pointed to claims that she plagiarized her written responses to questions ahead of her initial hearing.
“Kathleen Hartnett White was completely unprepared and appeared totally unqualified last time around,” Whitehouse told HuffPost in an email. “If Republicans take their advice and consent responsibilities seriously, Chairman [Sen. John] Barrasso [R-Wyo.] will call her before the Environment and Public Works Committee for another hearing. She needs to address serious questions about her record, like how she plagiarized previous nominees in answering the Committee’s simple written questions and didn’t understand high-school level scientific principles.”
Sen. Tom Carper (Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, slammed the renomination of Hartnett White in a statement on Monday.
“Kathleen Hartnett White’s disdain for science and basic facts is clear and poses a serious threat to the health of our environment and the American people,” Carper said. “Her statements are wildly inappropriate and her extreme stances have elicited serious concerns on both sides of the aisle and across the country. It is virtually impossible to find anyone who can, after watching Ms. White’s hearing, sincerely say that she is well-qualified for the important job to which she has been nominated.
“In the 17 years I have been in the Senate, I have never sat through a hearing as excruciating as Ms. White’s,” he continued.
Democrats had hoped Trump would reconsider Hartnett White’s nomination after it was sent back to the White House, and hundreds of scientists signed on to a letter in November urging the Senate to reject her nomination.
“There’s a reason these troubling anti-science, pro-polluter nominees couldn’t get across the finish line last year,” Sara Chieffo, vice president for government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement Monday. “Kathleen Hartnett White has no place heading up the White House environmental office ― she has a long record of distorting science, spouting conspiracy theories and denying serious pollution problems in Texas.”
Based on his first year in office, Trump seems unconcerned about any anti-climate bias Hartnett White may hold. In June, the president moved to withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris climate agreement; his head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, has quickly moved to undo many statutes reining in energy companies; and the White House recently proposed a new offshore drilling plan that would open up huge swaths of the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans to oil exploration.
This article has been updated with comments from Whitehouse.