FERC picks caught in EPA confirmation fight

Source: Nick Sobczyk and Sam Mintz, E&E News reporters • Posted: Friday, October 20, 2017

Two nominees for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are stuck in an ongoing fight over several of President Trump’s picks for top-level spots at U.S. EPA.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) last week blocked an effort from Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to advance the two FERC nominees over his objection to one of them, Democratic Senate aide Richard Glick (E&E Daily, Oct. 6).

Glick and Kevin McIntyre, a Jones Day energy lawyer who will become chairman if confirmed, both passed Murkowski’s panel in September and have been awaiting a floor vote for weeks.

Inhofe said yesterday he and Murkowski were working to iron out a deal to proceed with Glick’s confirmation in exchange for floor time for several controversial EPA picks.

“It depends on if we could get some of the others in front of the Senate for confirmation having to do with the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Inhofe, former Environment and Public Works Committee chairman.

The Glick delay has meant that McIntyre’s confirmation is held up, too, because Democrats want the two to move forward as a pair.

FERC in August regained a three-person quorum after six months of being unable to make major decisions, but the five-member commission is still undermanned as it works on a major rulemaking proposed by the Department of Energy.

Inhofe wants to bring to the floor Bill Wehrum, who would head EPA’s air office; Michael Dourson, who would lead the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention; Andrew Wheeler, nominated for deputy EPA administrator; and Susan Bodine, the president’s choice for assistant administrator of enforcement and compliance assurance.

Dourson and Wehrum sparked outcries from Democrats during a joint confirmation hearing earlier this month, largely because of their industry ties (Greenwire, Oct. 4).

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) peppered Dourson with questions about dozens of studies he did in the past for tobacco companies and chemical manufacturers as the head of nonprofit consulting firm Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment.

Wehrum, meanwhile, faced pushback from EPW Committee ranking member Tom Carper (D-Del.) over his work on behalf of clients, in which he often opposed environmental regulations.

Also, corn-state Republicans, including Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, have vowed to vote against Wehrum unless EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt assures them that he won’t reduce blend volumes of biodiesel under the renewable fuel standard, which could hurt corn growers.

The snafu led Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to cancel a vote originally scheduled for this week on a number of EPA nominees, as well as Jeff Baran for a Nuclear Regulatory Commission spot. With the EPW Committee split 11-10, Republicans will need every GOP vote to get him through.

Last night, Pruitt made the assurances Ernst and other lawmakers wanted in writing, likely paving the road for the nominees to clear committee (see related story).

Wheeler, a former Inhofe staffer who has advised biofuel companies, was just nominated earlier this month and has not yet had a confirmation hearing. Bodine and Dourson are both already working at EPA as advisers.