Inhofe challenges authority of Obama’s climate council

Source: Hannah Hess, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) today questioned the legal authority for the White House Council on Environmental Quality to continue to operate without a Senate-confirmed chairman.

In a letter to President Obama, Inhofe challenged the standing of former National Park Service official Christy Goldfuss, who in March replaced former CEQ Chief of Staff Mike Boots as managing director of the agency.

The Obama administration hasn’t named a nominee to take over the Council on Environmental Quality since former Chairwoman Nancy Sutley stepped down in December 2013.

“Your reliance on lower-level staff to function as the Council indefinitely, without any apparent intention to nominate a Chairman, is contrary to your constitutional duty to ensure that the Vacancies Reform Act and [National Environmental Policy Act] are faithfully executed,” Inhofe wrote.

Inhofe claims CEQ lacked the legal authority to issue several recent guidance documents on climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability, and asks Obama to formally withdraw those documents. He called any actions purporting to have been taken on behalf of CEQ during this vacancy “ultra vires.”

From Goldfuss, the senator demanded internal operations manuals and delegations of authority, legal memoranda concerning the authority of the managing director, and calendar entries and other documents concerning CEQ’s involvement in the upcoming international climate negotiations.

The letter seems to conflict with Inhofe’s earlier views on CEQ. Asked about his delay in holding hearings or votes on Obama’s nominations to U.S. EPA, Inhofe told Greenwire in March that he had other priorities. On CEQ in particular, Inhofe said, “I think I’m satisfied with an acting director in there because the unknown is always worse” (Greenwire, March 24).