Energy Secretary Confirmed; EPA Pick Advances

On May 16, President Obama's pick to head the EPA, Gina McCarthy, was approved on a 10-8 party-line vote by a Senate Committee and advances to the full Senate. His pick to head the Dept. of Energy, Ernest Moniz, was approved by the Senate by 97-0.

2 minute read

May 18, 2013, 5:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

To say it's been a rough ride for Gina McCarthy, currently the Environmental Protection Agency's top air quality regulator, would be an understatement. Last week, the Senate's Environment and Public Work's Committee failed to meet a quorum after two Democrats were out ill and all the Republicans boycotted the meeting. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), still ill, was brought in on a wheelchair for the vote.

Zack Colman writes what McCarthy can expect when she goes before the full Senate for confirmation (date undetermined).

The partisan (committee) vote could spell potential trouble for McCarthy if Republicans employ a filibuster on her nomination, which would require 60 votes to break.

Ahead of the vote, ranking member David Vitter (R-La.) listed the issues the EPA must resolve for GOP members to not filibuster McCarthy’s nomination on the floor.

Vitter listed issues regarding transparency and wanted more information as to how "the agency crafts pollution regulations". In fact, over 1,000 questions have been given to McCarthy. Democrats responded by charging the GOP with being “obstructionist.”

McCarthy's difficulties in being confirmed appear to originate not with her so much as it does with the EPA itself - environmental regulations have been targeted by many Republicans as being harmful to business and industry.

Meanwhile, in the full Senate, President Obama's pick to head the Dept. of Energy, MIT nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz breezed to a unanimous confirmation, reports The Washington Post's Al Kamen in its political blog, "In The Loop". Unlike McCarthy's opponents, it was from the environmental community that objections were raised because of his support for nuclear energy and natural gas.

However, that viewpoint is not shared by the 'cleantech' sector, reports John Upton of Grist. Rhone Resch, president & CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a solar trade association, stated, "Ernest Moniz will be an outstanding Secretary of Energy".

One potential problem that could have held up the vote did not surface, reports The Hill's Ramsey Cox.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had been holding up a vote over his concerns about federal management of a program in his state to transform weapons-grade plutonium into fuel. But he removed that hold last week.

Graham explained the purpose of the hold was "to bring attention" to the MOX plant under construction that is "billions of dollars over-budget" so as to ensure continuous funding.

Thursday, May 16, 2013 in The Hill's Energy & Environment Blog

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