The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Jeffrey Clark to defend the Trump administration’s environmental policies in federal court, in a 52-45 vote.
Mr. Clark who is currently a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, will now serve as head of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
The unit handles all environmental litigation, from bringing civil and criminal cases against polluters to advocating for policies adapted by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior in court.
“Jeff has four years of experience as part of the Environment and Natural Resources Division leadership team, working on virtually every case that the division litigated in the courts of appeals and every environmental case argued before the Supreme Court,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “He is ready to lead this division — and it should not have taken us 16 months to get him confirmed.”
Mr. Clark previously worked in the unit from 2001 through 2005, under President George W. Bush. He has been acting assistant attorney general in the environmental division since President Trump’s inauguration.
The nomination has drawn a sharp divided among political lines.
When Mr. Trump nominated Mr. Clark in May, the Chamber of Commerce praised the move, saying he would provide the Justice Department with “key leadership and experience as it prepares to address critical litigation on a number of important energy and environmental topics.”
But some environmental groups have opposed Mr. Clark’s nomination. They cite his representation of BP Oil over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and comments he has made about the EPA.
In a 2010 speech, Mr. Clark said the EPA’s “overly ambitious agenda needs to be checked by judicial review.”
“Jeffrey Bosson Clark’s blatant hostility toward environmental protection is good news for polluters, but awful news for the rest of us,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, which advocates for agriculture subsidies. “The guy who defended the company that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history is not likely to aggressively go after corporate environmental outlaws.”
Just before Thursday’s vote, Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, announced his opposition to Mr. Clark on Twitter, calling him “the wrong person for the job.”
“Mr. Clark, who the Sierra Club described as an ‘outspoken opponent of environmental and public health protection,’ is the wrong man to lead this division of the Justice Department,” Mr. Durbin tweeted. “I oppose his nomination.”
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Thursday that Mr. Clark was extremely qualified for the job.
“Mr. Clark’s legal colleagues describe him as one of the most capable lawyers with whom they’ve ever worked, and no fewer than seven former assistant attorneys general for the environment and natural resources division tell the Senate that his well-rounded background and prior experience in the division make him an excellent choice for this position,” he said.