Trump to Withdraw Nomination of Climate Skeptic as Top Environmental Adviser

Kathleen Hartnett White at Trump Tower in Manhattan in 2016.

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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration plans to withdraw its nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White, a climate change skeptic, to lead the Council on Environmental Quality, a White House official said.

President Trump in October appointed Ms. White, a former Texas environmental regulator who has said that carbon dioxide should be considered the “gas of life” rather than a pollutant, to be the White House senior environmental adviser. Carbon dioxide emissions contribute to global warming.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved Ms. White on a party-line vote, but her nomination languished at the end of 2017. That was in part, lawmakers acknowledged, because of Ms. White’s performance at her hearing in which she not only espoused controversial views on climate change but also stumbled over science questions.

When Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland, asked Ms. White if she believes climate change is real, she said “I am uncertain.” She then corrected herself saying, “No, I’m not. I jumped ahead. Climate change is of course real.” She then added she was uncertain about the extent to which humans cause climate change.

When Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat of Rhode Island, asked Ms. White to estimate how much heat in Earth’s atmosphere is stored in the oceans, she replied, “I don’t have numbers like that,” adding, “I believe that there are differences of opinions on that, that there’s not one right answer.”

The most up-to-date scientific assessment on climate change, released by the Trump administration in November, found that the world’s oceans have absorbed “about 93 percent of the excess heat caused by greenhouse gas warming since the mid-20th century, making them warmer and altering global and regional climate feedbacks.”

Democrats also assailed Ms. White’s writings in which she called renewable energy “unreliable and parasitic,” described global warming as “a creed, a faith, a dogma that has little to do with science,” and asserted that science does not dictate policy in democracies.

President Trump resubmitted Ms. White’s nomination to the Senate last month but now plans to withdraw it because of worries that the votes aren’t there, the White House official said. The official was not authorized to discuss personnel decisions and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The Washington Post on Saturday reported the White House decision to withdraw the nomination.

Democrats and environmental activists hailed the decision. “Withdrawing Kathleen Hartnett White’s nomination is the right thing to do,” Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement. He said the Council on Environmental Quality should have a “thoughtful environmental and public health champion” to lead it.

Sara Chieffo, vice president for government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters, blasted Ms. White as an “anti-science extremist” and called the decision a “victory for science.”

Ms. White could not be reached for comment. The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a free-market think tank where Ms. White currently serves as a senior fellow, also could not immediately be reached.

Withdrawing Ms. White’s name may clear the way for Senate consideration of other environmental nominees. That includes Andrew R. Wheeler, a coal lobbyist, to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

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