The Environmental Protection Agency has responded to half of a Senate oversight committee's information requests, undermining a top Democrat's claim that he is blocking nominees because the agency has not answered his letters.
Sen. Tom Carper (D., Del.), the leading Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said he is opposing Susan Bodine, President Donald Trump's nominee for assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, despite her impressive resume.
"Certainly, Ms. Bodine's resume is helpful," Carper said in a statement Wednesday. "With over a decade of experience in the House and Senate and time spent working in the Bush Administration, I believe she understands the relationship that should exist between the separate, but equal branches of our government. Ms. Bodine has also served as counsel to two chairmen of this committee, both of whom have taken their oversight roles very seriously."
Carper said he raised his "serious concerns" with Bodine on the lack of responses from the EPA from his committee. "Specifically, I noted the multiple letters from EPW members that have still received no response, including an inquiry on EPA's enforcement activities," Carper said. That letter was sent less than three weeks ago, and Carper asked for a response by June 23.
"I do not believe her Senate bosses would stand for such blatant disregard from an agency, and Democratic members will not either," Carper said.
Carper added that he could not support Bodine, or any other Trump EPA nominee, until he receives responses to his letters.
"Until members of this committee receive adequate responses from Mr. Pruitt so that we can all exercise our oversight responsibilities, I feel I have no choice but to oppose the consideration of any additional EPA nominees," he said. "I stand ready to work with Chairman Barrasso to resolve this issue as soon as possible, ideally before Ms. Bodine’s rescheduled confirmation hearing next week."
The EPA pushed back against Carper's claim, providing the Washington Free Beacon with a record of the letters processed since Pruitt was confirmed.
"We've received 20 letters from Senator Carper and 10 have already received a detailed response," said Jahan Wilcox, an EPA spokesman. "Of the remaining 10 letters: Seven were received in the past month and we are working to respond as quickly as possible."
"EPA staff is committed to being responsive to Congress," Wilcox said.
Requests submitted by the committee included an inquiry about a Politico article suggesting the EPA is considering hiring private lawyers to rewrite the Obama administration's Waters of the United States regulation. The EPA sent its response on May 17.
Other requests that have been fulfilled included documents related to Pruitt's decision to not attend the Oklahoma GOP fundraising gala. The response was delivered June 1.
Another response, dealing with documents about Pruitt's ethics agreement, was fulfilled in three days. The committee sent a letter on May 2 regarding Pruitt's lawsuit seeking to overturn the EPA's 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for Ozone while he was attorney general of Oklahoma. The EPA sent a final response on May 5.
An additional response to a Senate inquiry will be mailed on Friday.
Bodine has received bipartisan support. Scott Fulton, an EPA general counsel under the Obama administration, endorsed Bodine.
"During the Obama administration, when I served as EPA's general counsel, Susan and I worked collaboratively on matters of shared concern to the administration and the Congress," said Fulton, who is now president of the Environmental Law Institute. "Through these various intersections, I have found Susan to be fair minded, clear thinking, and strategic in her approach, as well as effective in her leadership. She has a deep understanding of EPA and the EPA-State relationship, which will equip her well to lead [the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance] OECA."
Bodine is "deeply familiar with EPA, having led the agency's solid waste office during the George W. Bush administration," according to Environment & Energy Publishing.