Citing one nominee’s stance on the federal ethanol mandate and another’s supposed ties to Koch Industries, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Illinois Democrat, on Wednesday placed holds on two key nominations for top-level jobs at the Environmental Protection Agency.
The move comes a day after Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, threatened to block those same nominees until EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt committed to upholding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the federal ethanol mandate that’s produced economic booms for both Mr. Grassley’s state of Iowa and Ms. Duckworth’s state of Illinois.
In a statement announcing the hold — which at least temporarily prevents the nominations from moving forward — Ms. Duckworth specifically cited the RFS in explaining why she’s blocking a vote on Bill Wehrum to lead the agency’s office of air and radiation.
“Mr. Wehrum’s history of attacking the biofuels industry and his refusal to recuse himself from RFS-related issues despite his well-documented conflicts of interest should alarm all of my colleagues,” the senator said. “As someone who fought to defend this nation, I have seen firsthand the price we pay for our dangerous dependence on oil imported from our adversaries. Any senator who supports the RFS program, our farmers, and our commitment to the environment and energy dependence must oppose his nomination.”
The RFS, put in place in 2007, requires increasing levels of ethanol and other biofuels be produced and blended with gasoline supplies each year. President Trump was highly supportive of the program throughout his campaign, but Mr. Pruitt has been skeptical, and a draft proposal released by the EPA over the summer proposed cutting key aspects of the RFS.
Meanwhile, Ms. Duckworth also placed a hold on the nomination of Michael Dourson to lead EPA’s office of chemical safety and pollution prevention. As other critics have contended in recent weeks, Ms. Duckworth blasted the nominee for conducting research partly funded by Koch Industries, and argued he’s too closely tied to major chemical companies to be an objective federal official.
Both of those individuals, along with several other high-level EPA nominees, were scheduled to come up for a vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday, but that vote was postponed.