Editor’s note: This post was updated on October 13, 2017
It’s official: President Trump has tapped climate change denier Kathleen Hartnett White to lead the White House office charged with coordinating energy and environmental policies for the federal government.
Her nomination to chair the Council on Environmental Quality comes after Hartnett White, a registered lobbyist, spent nearly a decade with the Texas Public Policy Foundation spreading “alternative facts” on air pollution and climate change. The Texas advocacy group is funded in large by the energy industry.
Hartnett White’s nomination part of pattern
As my colleague Jeremy Symons wrote when Hartnett White was initially considered for the top job at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, she has long been a critic of the EPA’s efforts to reduce toxic air pollution such as soot and mercury. In a 2016 op-ed for The Hill she attacked the agency for pursuing standards to reduce air pollution from fossil fuels.
Unfortunately, this nomination is part of a pattern. If confirmed, Hartnett White will be mingling with like-minded agency heads such as EPA chief Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, all of whom are fossil fuel proponents.
Rejecting consensus science
White, a former chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, told Rolling Stone, “We’re not a democracy if science dictates what our rules are.” In a 2012 report [PDF] targeting the EPA’s efforts to reduce the fine particle air pollution that exacerbates lung disease and asthma, she lamented that political appointees must weigh the views of what she called “mandarins brandishing their scientific credentials.”
In The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels [PDF], she called CO2 “the gas that makes life possible on the earth and naturally fertilizes plant growth… Whether emitted from the human use of fossil fuels or as a natural (and necessary) gas in the atmosphere surrounding the earth, carbon dioxide has none of the attributes of a pollutant.”
She is apparently not a fan of the scientists at NASA, the National Academies of Science, and all major American scientific organizations.
Siding with big energy interests over public health
The reviews of her work from some Texans when Hartnett White was first considered for a top job with the Trump administration were not friendly. The Dallas Morning News called her “an apologist for polluters,” saying she’d been “consistently siding with business interests instead of protecting public health. White worked to set a low bar as she lobbied for lax ozone standards and pushed through an inadequate anti-pollution plan.”
If we are to protect clean air and water, and keep pace in a world moving toward cleaner energy, we need leaders who are looking forward. Right now, with the environmental positions in the cabinet only representing one voice, we risk damaging America’s future. And the addition of Kathleen Hartnett White would add ignorance to injury.