Kathleen Hartnett White, the administration’s choice to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, has withdrawn her name from consideration for the position, according to the White House.
Democrats and many scientists had skewered White, who is not a scientist and disagrees with the scientific consensus that humans are the main driver of modern climate change. Last November, more than 300 scientists signed a letter to the Senate opposing White’s nomination.
“I respectfully withdraw my name from further consideration to be confirmed as Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality effective immediately,” White said in a statement released by the White House over the weekend, on 4 February.
The White House had formally nominated her on 13 October to lead the office, which coordinates federal environmental efforts. From 2001 to 2007, White was the chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
“I want to thank President Trump for his confidence in me and I will continue to champion his policies and leadership on environmental and energy issues of critical importance to making our nation great, prosperous and secure again,” White’s statement continued.
Currently the director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, White added that she withdrew her name from further consideration “in the best interest of facilitating confirmation of the President’s nominees throughout his administration, as well the needs of my family and work.”
Disputes During Hearing
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, was pleased about her withdrawal. He tweeted, “To begin tackling #climatechange, we need a CEQ leader who has a deep respect for science, for environmental laws on the books and for those who hold different views than their own. It’s past time for @POTUS to nominate an environmental and public health champion to lead CEQ.”
Committee member Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) tweeted, “A small victory for sanity in a lunatic world. Not that the next one will be much better, but you do what you can.”
During an 8 November confirmation hearing conducted by the committee, White said that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has none of the characteristics of a pollutant “that can have direct impact on human health.” She also dismissed a Climate Science Special Report released by the administration on 3 November as “a product of the past administration and not of this president.” That report, issued a few days before the hearing, stated that “it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
At the hearing, Carper called White “a science denier,” and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) charged that her “positions are so far out of the mainstream that they’re not just outliers, they’re outrageous.”
Republicans rose to White’s defense. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a supporter, said at the hearing, “I understand several of the extremists are driving a narrative that you hate the environment and worked to give cover to polluters when you were with TCEQ.”
Eos reached out for comment to Sen. Inhofe, committee chair Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and White following her withdrawal but had not heard back from them as of the time of publication.
“Not a Credible Nominee”
Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy, told Eos that he thinks White’s name was withdrawn because her “record and comments in the hearing were so fundamentally flawed that senators from both parties told the White House she was not a credible nominee.”
Rosenberg said that White was “fundamentally unqualified” to lead CEQ. Her “rejection of scientific evidence from many fields as well as her apparent opposing to the very tenets of the National Environmental Policy Act that CEQ oversees made her a terrible choice for the position,” he said. “We need a serious candidate who is committed to making our environmental health and quality better.”
—Randy Showstack (@RandyShowstack), Staff Writer