President Trump withdrew the nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White to be the top environmental official in the White House Saturday after Senate Democrats attacked her climate change views, and few Republicans came to her defense.
Democrats during last congressional session had successfully stalled White’s confirmation to lead the Council on Environmental Quality, with the Senate returning her nomination to the White House rather than automatically tabling her nomination into 2018 with other pending nominations.
Trump later renominated White, meaning the confirmation process would have started again from scratch after she had already made it through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The Senate never voted on her nomination, with her ability to pass the full chamber in doubt.
But the White House said Sunday that Hartnett White asked that her name be pulled from consideration for the position.
The Washington Post first reported the news.
“I want to thank President Trump for his confidence in me and I will continue to champion his policies and leadership on environmental and energy issues of critical importance to making our nation great, prosperous and secure again,” White said in a statement.
Democrats, in opposing her nomination, said White holds views contrary to established science on climate change that make her unfit to lead the Council on Environmental Quality, which coordinates environmental policy at the White House.
“In this case, it was abundantly clear very early on that heading up the Council on Environmental Quality wasn’t the right job for Ms. White,” Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement.
“I often say that when you think you’re right, when you know you’re right, you should never give up,” he added. “When it comes to insulating our towns and cities from climate change, or protecting our children from toxic pollutants and chemicals, there should be no compromise.”
Democrats also recently celebrated after another Trump nominee, Michael Dourson, the president’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical safety division, withdrew under pressure.
White is former chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality who last worked at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank that has received funding from Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and other energy companies.
She has said "carbon dioxide is not a pollutant" and once referred to former President Obama's climate change policies as "deluded and illegitimate."
She also has said those who believe in climate change follow a "kind of paganism" for "secular elites.”
White during her confirmation hearing countered that her comments were “taken out of context.”
But she continued to express doubt about the extent human activity contributes to climate change.
She said she believes human activity contributes to climate change, but she does not believe the extent of that impact is known with precision, a position held by other Trump administration officials.
She said emissions of carbon dioxide have increased from preindustrial levels, but not "drastically."
“It’s likely that CO2 emissions from human activity have some influence on the climate, but ... CO2 in the atmosphere has none of the characteristics of a pollutant that contaminates and fouls... that can have direct impact on human health. As an atmospheric gas, it’s a plant nutrient,” White said.
White refused to back the findings of a major climate change report released last year by Trump administration scientists that found it is “extremely likely” that human activities are the “dominant cause” of global warming.
The comprehensive study of climate science by U.S. government researchers across 13 federal agencies, known as the Climate Science Special Report, is part of a larger scientific review called the fourth National Climate Assessment. It is mandated by Congress to be released every four years.
"I view this report as a product of the past administration, not of this one,” White said. The report began under the Obama administration in 2015 and was done by career staff members.
White said her top priority as the White House’s top environmental adviser would have been reducing permit delays for infrastructure projects.
“I would welcome the challenge to make significant changes to environmental reviews to reduce costs and uncertainty,” she said. “That would be historically important.”
Combating climate change would be among her top three priorities, she said.