Senate approves Biden’s pick to lead EPA’s air office as final rules on power plants and vehicles near
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has confirmed President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s air pollution office as the agency prepares to finalize rules on climate-changing emissions from power plants, cars and trucks.
Joe Goffman is a longtime EPA official who has headed the Office of Air and Radiation on an acting basis since Biden took office three years ago. His nomination for the permanent position has stalled for nearly two years amid opposition from Republicans unhappy with EPA rules on a range of issues, from restrictions on coal and natural gas-fired power plants to industrial soot and vehicle emissions.
Goffman’s 2022 nomination for the air position, one of the most important jobs at the EPA, ended last year without a vote in the Senate. He was renominated in early 2023. The vote to confirm him was 50-49, with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a coal industry ally, the only Democrat to oppose him. Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, a vocal critic of Goffman, was absent after the death of his wife, Bobbie, last week.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan said Goffman played a central role in developing and implementing rules and policies that advance Biden’s agenda to address the climate crisis and ensure clean air.
“Joe has a unique skill at building consensus among stakeholders and crafting policies that address global challenges like climate change, while simultaneously addressing long-term pollution concerns in overburdened communities,” Reagan said in a statement.
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Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment Committee, praised Goffman’s confirmation. The air office “has a significant impact on our lives,” Carper said, with a mission that “includes reducing climate pollution while improving our vehicle emissions standards and protecting public health.”
Carper added that Goffman “proved he was up to the task.” “Under his direction, EPA has made significant progress…to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help lower energy costs for all Americans.”
But Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the top Republican on the Environment Committee, criticized Goffman as the primary author of job-killing regulations during two Democratic administrations. Goffman was a senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency in the Obama administration and played a leading role in the Clean Power Plan, President Barack Obama’s signature attempt to address climate change. The 2015 rule was blocked by the Supreme Court and was never implemented.
“Rarely have we had such a strong record to draw upon in evaluating a nominee and — and I say this with great disappointment — rarely has a record been so damaging,” Capito said in a speech on the Senate floor.
“Mr. Goffman’s actions — marked by federal overreach and job-killing regulations — were a disaster for our country,” Capito said. She called the Clean Power Plan a “direct hit to American energy production” and an attempt to shutter coal- and gas-fired power plants, including those in her state. Original.
Capito said the EPA’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants is nothing more than “the second iteration of the Clean Power Plan.”
“Many of us have warned about the lawlessness and danger of this regulatory plan,” she said, predicting “serious consequences” for the reliability of the electric grid and energy prices.
Capito and other Republicans also denounced Goffman’s role in what they described as the Biden administration’s rapid push toward electric vehicles.
Environmental groups defended Goffman.
“Our nation needs Joe’s extensive experience, knowledge and hard work as we grapple with the increasingly pressing problems of the climate crisis and air pollution that is making people sick,” said Fred Krupp, President of the Environmental Defense Fund. Goffman once worked for the group in a long career that also included service as a Democratic staff attorney on the Senate Environment Committee.
Joe has dedicated his career to protecting human health and the environment and will continue to do so “through decisions grounded in science and law,” Krupp said.
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