The Senate confirmed the Environmental Protection Agency's top lawyer and water office chief on Thursday, almost 24 hours after the president's pick to serve as the agency's chemical safety head withdrew his nomination.
Matt Leopold and David Ross were confirmed to serve as the agency's general counsel and head of EPA's Office of Water, respectively. The two officials were considered together and approved.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Ross and Leopold have exemplary records in upholding the law. Ross specifically "has a record of holding polluters accountable and navigating through complex environmental law on behalf of the state of Wisconsin," he said.
Ross had been serving as Wisconsin's assistant attorney general and director of the Wisconsin Department of Justice's environmental unit.
The two nominees were confirmed amid applause from environmental groups over Wednesday evening's news that Michael Dourson had withdrawn his nomination to serve as the head of the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
"This is a victory for all children, workers, and communities who deserve the strongest protections from exposure to toxic chemicals and pesticides, and for all those who rose up against the unconscionable nomination," said Andrea Delgado, legislative director for the environmental group Earthjustice.
Dourson had run into trouble in the Senate over his past experience as founder of a consulting group that represented companies that produced chemicals now under EPA review for their public health risks. In that role, he has recommended lower safety standards for chemicals than the norm proposed by agency regulators.
Democrats and environmentalists weren't the only ones opposing his nomination. In recent weeks, Republicans began adding their voices in opposing the appointment.
North Carolina Republican Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr began the push against his nomination last month by citing major chemical cleanup problems in their state that they believe he would not be qualified to handle.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also joined the opposition, putting approval in extreme doubt, especially with all Senate Democrats ready to vote against Dourson.