Ties to industry and possible conflicts of interest dog nominees for environment-related posts.
President Donald Trump is slowly working his way through nominating people for posts related to Western natural resources and the environment; several nominations came down this week. There are more than 1,200 White House appointees that must be vetted by Senate committee, then confirmed by a majority of the full Senate.
While Trump has yet to nominate anyone for hundreds of those positions — several of which directly affect Western states, including the directors of the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service — the White House announced more than a dozen nominees this week, and the Senate moved forward on approvals for others.
Here are the people headed for some of those jobs:
Position: Assistant secretary for policy, management and budget in the Department of the Interior.
Status: Nomination sent to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on July 11.
As head of the Office of Policy, Management and Budget, Combs would oversee the creation of the Department’s budget, among other duties related to increasing efficiency and standardizing agency programs.
Combs served as the state comptroller for Texas from 2007 to 2015. “Combs has been an outspoken critic of the Fish and Wildlife Service” — an agency within the Interior Department — “and the Endangered Species Act,” the Texas Observerreports. In 2011, Combs’ office “wrested away control of the endangered species program from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and since then has been dogged by a series of controversial decisions that appear to favor special interests over rare Texas species.” (Read the whole Texas Observer story here.) A top Texas-based Fish and Wildlife Service official who raised concerns in 2012 later became mired in a whistleblower retaliation case that led to his retirement.
Position: Assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance at the Environmental Protection Agency
Status: Approved by Senate Environment and Public Works committee on July 12; awaiting full Senate confirmation.
As head of EPA enforcement, Bodine would lead the agency’s efforts to uphold environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act. Her office would also oversee management of the National Environmental Policy Act, the law requiring federal agencies to assess environmental impacts before building or permitting projects.
Bodine has served as chief counsel to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee since 2015. Her new position won’t be the first time she’s worked at the EPA. During the George W. Bush administration, she led the agency’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.
Bodine has also worked as a lawyer and lobbyist in the private sector. One group she represented was the American Forest and Paper Association, “a trade group whose member companies have hundreds of EPA enforcement actions issued against them,” E&E News reports. When asked by Senate Democrats about her previous employment and possible conflicts, however, Bodine dismissed those concerns: “If confirmed, I would have no problem taking appropriate enforcement action against any company,” she said in a written response, according to E&E News.
Emily Benson is an editorial fellow at High Country News. Follow her on Twitter at erbenson1.