Washington Water Main, April 8: Hearings for Energy and EPA Directors

The Senate will host confirmation hearings this week for two more members of President Barack Obama’s cabinet with significant influence over water, agriculture, and energy management in the United States.

Department of Energy DOE Nominee Ernest Moniz Barack Obama Washington Water Main

Energy Department :: Ernest Moniz, President Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of the Department of Energy (Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons via Fraunhofer CSE). Click image to enlarge.

Ernest Moniz, the Department of Energy secretary nominee, goes in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday.

Gina McCarthy, nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency, will join the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for her hearing Thursday.

McCarthy, currently EPA’s assistant administrator for air and radiation, would lead an agency responsible for water-quality enforcement nationwide, freshwater restoration and conservation, and wetland protection. Moniz, if nominated, would direct an agency that supervises energy supply and distribution technology innovation and nuclear security.

Each nominee faced different kinds of political opposition in recent weeks. Some Republican EPA critics challenged McCarthy’s transparency record, while Moniz faced criticism from anti-fracking groups for conflicting financial and academic ties.

McCarthy’s hearing will likely be the most adversarial, The Hill reported. The Senate environment committee features three of Congress’ most outspoken opponents of EPA: ranking Republican David Vitter (Lousiana), James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), and John Barrasso (R-Wyoming). Vitter published an op-ed in U.S. News and World Report in March accusing the EPA of hiding alliances with “far-left” environmental groups and mismanaging requests for information. He assigned some of the blame to McCarthy.

Environmental Protection Agency EPA Nominee Gina McCarthy Barack Obama Washington Water Main

Gina McCarthy, President Barack Obama’s nominee for Environmental Protection Agency director (Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons via DC EcoWomen). Click image to enlarge.

While Moniz has not faced any such criticism from Congress, left-leaning groups like the Public Accountability Initiative, Food and Water Watch, and Center for Biological Diversity have challenged his personal financial ties and academic integrity.

The academic criticism focused on a 2011 study Moniz supervised as director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative, The Boston Globe reported. The report highlighted natural gas’ potential to reduce oil dependence and transition to a “‘bridge’ to a low-carbon future.” Several co-authors had lucrative ties to the natural gas industry.

Newly public financial records revealed that Moniz has consulting agreements and other financial stakes in a wide array of energy-related businesses, POLITICO reported. Since 2008, he has been a paid consultant for Riverstone Equity Holdings LP, The Boston Globe reported, which holds billions in fossil-fuel related investments. He is also a consultant and board member for ICF International, an environmental consulting company that represents natural gas companies. He agreed to divest the $US 500,000 in shares he holds if appointed. Moniz’s client list also includes General Electric, British Petroleum, and consulting firm IHS.

As Energy secretary, Moniz would hold considerable regulatory power over those companies.

Despite the tangled financial alliances, Moniz’s hearing and eventual confirmation are expected to go relatively smoothly.

Follow Washington Water Main next week for reactions from the hearings.

Sources: The Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S. News and World Report, POLITICO

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