Dems threaten to delay EPA nominee’s confirmation

Two Senate Democrats are threatening to delay a confirmation vote for a key Trump administration Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominee.

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) wrote a letter late Wednesday to Susan Bodine, picked to lead the EPA’s enforcement office, expressing “several concerns” about her current job at the agency, the EPA’s enforcement of an Obama administration methane rule and some written answers she gave after her confirmation hearing.

Trump nominated Bodine, previously chief counsel at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, to the EPA position in May, and that same committee voted along party lines in July to advance her nomination.

But the full Senate still has not taken up her nomination. Earlier this month, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt hired her as a special counsel to “work closely” with the enforcement office, which is officially being led on an interim basis by Larry Starfield, a career EPA employee.

Whitehouse and Merkley said Bodine’s new job is alarming.

“Your appointment creates the appearance, and perhaps the effect, of circumventing the Senate’s constitutional advice and consent responsibility for the position to which you have been nominated,” they wrote in their Wednesday letter.

“Your improper involvement in EPA enforcement decisions could provide grounds for subjects of EPA actions to challenge the legal validity of those actions in court.”

Whitehouse and Merkley also want details about the EPA’s practice of enforcing the methane rule for oil and natural gas drilling, a rule that Pruitt is working to repeal, but for now is enforcing on a “case by case” basis.

The two Democrats said they would not consent to any requests to shorten debate time for Bodine — a common practice the Senate uses to speed votes for nominees — until they get satisfactory answers from Bodine.

“This appointment raises several concerns that we request you address before we can consent to any time agreement to process your nomination,” they wrote.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said the agency “will respond to Senator Whitehouse through the proper channel.”