Kathleen Hartnett White is a bad choice to head the national Council on Environmental Quality.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she would lead a White House office that’s traditionally known as an environmental watchdog. Her performance as an environmental regulator in Texas, however, suggests that she would walk lock step with the Trump administration and Scott Pruitt’s Environmental Protection Agency in dismantling vital environmental protections.
President Donald Trump named White, a climate change denier, to the position last week.
Her record is abominable. White consistently sided with business interests at the expense of public health as chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. She lobbied for lax ozone standards and, at a time when all but the most ardent fossil fuel apologists understood that coal isn’t the nation’s future, White signed a permit for a lignite-fired power plant, ignoring evidence that emissions from the lignite plant could thwart North Texas’ efforts to meet air quality standards.
That’s why this newspaper steadfastly questioned her leadership at the Texas commission and called her an apologist for energy interests.
We weren’t the only ones dismayed by her record. In 2003, the state auditor concluded that the White-led Texas commission failed to hold violators accountable for breaking the law, applied fines that amounted to barely 40 percent of the profits the companies made by breaking the law, and introduced policies that weakened its own regulations.
Since leaving the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality in 2007 after six years, White has become an outspoken critic of climate change policies and the science behind them. In her writings, she advocates for more coal production, argues against adding renewable energy to the power grid and opposes the Environmental Protection Agency’s treatment of carbon dioxide as a pollutant despite countless studies that show it is.
White’s unsuitability for the national council is clear. She is a senior fellow and formerly lobbied for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based think tank that is a major opponent of taking action to combat climate change.
Coal will contribute to the nation’s short-term energy portfolio but not to the country’s long-term energy future. Texas is a national leader in solar and wind energy — no thanks to White, who called renewables “a false hope that simply won’t work.”
And her support of coal-fired power plants flies in the face of reality. About 262 coal-fired power plants, more than half of the nation’s coal-fired plants, have been retired or have announced plans to close since 2010, according to the Sierra Club. That includes plans by energy generator Luminant to close three coal-fired power plants in Texas due to low electricity prices and competition from power generated by natural gas and renewable sources.
With the country rapidly moving away from coal as a source of electricity, White’s embrace of coal shows how out of touch she is.
The nation needs a White House adviser who respects science and seeks a reasoned balance between energy needs and environmental protections. Kathleen Hartnett White does neither.
Congress should reject this nomination.
— Dallas Morning News