BY ZACK BUDRYK, THE HILL
Two former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrators praised Michael Regan, President Biden’s nominee for the position, before a House panel Wednesday and expressed hope that the Biden administration would restore morale among the agency’s rank and file.
Christine Todd Whitman, who served as EPA administrator from 2001 to 2003, issued veiled criticism of the Trump administration EPA without specifically naming the former president.
“In recent years, EPA leadership has suffered under the leadership of people who seem neither to understand nor appreciate the vital role EPA plays in American life,” Whitman said in the Wednesday hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
Whitman added that “the basic recognition that good science is the foundation of good policy has been eroded” and “the morale of the EPA’s dedicated career servants has plummeted.”
The former administrator hailed Regan as “possessing the experience and expertise credibility to restore people’s faith in the EPA,” adding that the Biden administration’s “first order of business” at the EPA must be “to re-establish a commitment to sound science as an integral and indispensable part of policymaking.”
Whitman decried climate change being treated as a “political football” and said she believed “leadership from the White House will make a huge difference” on environmental and climate issues.
Carol Browner, who served as EPA administrator from 1993 to 2001 under then-President Clinton, said she expected Regan to be a “wonderful leader” and outlined what she believed should be the four priorities for an effective EPA: following available science, adhering to the law, enforcement and environmental justice.
“If those are the cornerstones of how EPA thinks about its work on a daily basis, they will be able to serve all Americans,” she added. She went on to advise the Biden administration that “there is a lot of authority that is sitting there that can be used by the agency to meet the challenges of today.”
Browner also addressed politicization of energy and environmental policy, particularly pertaining to job creation, saying, “We do not have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy.”
Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) specifically asked Whitman about the balance between environmental enforcement and job creation, which Whitman also called a false choice.
“There are new technologies that are going to be developed, there are new energy sources that will be developed,” she said, noting that even as the U.S. population and its energy consumption grew between 1980 and 2017, it reduced pollution according to EPA determinations of pollutants.
“That’s what can happen when we talk about addressing things like climate change,” she said.
GOP critics of the president’s environmental and energy policies have frequently said they will devastate the job market, specifically his freeze on new leases for oil and gas drilling on public lands and his cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline.