CEQ nominee: ‘The climate is changing’

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, July 20, 2018

President Trump’s pick to lead the Council on Environmental Quality tiptoed around climate change today while appearing to draw some Democratic support.

Mary Neumayr, a former congressional staffer, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that people play a role in the planet’s changing climate, but stopped short of placing blame.

Answering a question from Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) about whether she believes the scientific consensus that climate change is real and is being driven primarily by human-based carbon emissions, Neumayr said, “I agree the climate is changing and human activity has a role.”

The hearing provided the public’s first window — although small — into Neumayr’s views on climate change. It also stood in stark contrast to the Senate’s grilling earlier this year of Kathleen Hartnett White, Trump’s prior nominee to lead CEQ, who faced sharp backlash before pulling her nomination.

Neumayr, who has been working at CEQ as chief of staff since March, drew strong support from Republicans and even some backing from Democrats.

Former House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) hailed Neumayr for her work on Capitol Hill, where she worked for his committee.

Her nomination, he said, “ought to be a slam-dunk.”

Before moving to the CEQ post, Neumayr worked with the Energy and Commerce Committee as deputy chief counsel for energy and environment, senior energy counsel and counsel.

She also worked as deputy counsel for environment and nuclear programs at the George W. Bush administration’s Department of Energy and counsel to the assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (E&E Daily, July 16).

Neumayr and a nominee for assistant secretary of Commerce for economic development, John Fleming, said they know of no conflicts of interest related to the posts for which they’ve been nominated.

EPW’s top Democrat, Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, told reporters after the hearing that he was pleased overall with Neumayr’s responses and found the hearing “encouraging.”

“Compared to most of the other administration nominees on the issue of climate change and ‘Is it real? Do humans have something to do with the challenge?’ she was more forthcoming than most,” he said.

During the hearing, Carper pushed Neumayr on fuel economy and greenhouse gas tailpipe standards for motor vehicles, and asked whether she would support adopting changes to the Montreal Protocol to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs.

But he declined to say whether he plans to vote for Neumayr, saying he still has questions for the record and wants to make sure she’ll support “near-term wins for the environment, for the economy.”