‘A small victory for sanity in a lunatic world’: Trump’s extreme environmental nominee is out

Kathleen Hartnett White tried to put a positive spin on rising carbon emissions.

Kathleen Hartnett White. CREDIT: Screenshot
Kathleen Hartnett White. CREDIT: Screenshot

After increased scrutiny on her history of fringe anti-science beliefs, the White House will withdraw the nomination for Kathleen Hartnett White to lead its Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Washington Post reported Saturday evening.

Hartnett White was widely considered an extreme choice to head CEQ, even in the context of Trump’s other energy and environment nominees, most of whom deny basic climate science, favor increased fossil fuel production, and are pushing for a widespread regulatory rollback.

“A small victory for sanity in a lunatic world,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) tweeted in response to the news. “Not that the next one will be much better, but you do what you can.”

Hartnett White is currently a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), which has received funding from ExxonMobil, Chevron, the Koch network, and the Heartland Institute. She has long cast doubt on widely accepted climate science. Not content to stop there, Hartnett White has actually argued on multiple occasions that increased carbon emissions in the atmosphere are beneficial to humans.


“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,” Hartnett White wrote in a 2014 paper. “Global warming alarmists are misleading the public about carbon dioxide emissions.”

While scientists are quite clear that human-caused emissions are driving global warming that in fact poses an extreme danger to humanity, Hartnett White stuck to her script during her Senate confirmation hearing last November. She told members of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) that carbon dioxide has none of the characteristics of the pollutants that have a “direct impact on human health.” Instead, it is “an atmospheric gas” that serves as a “plant nutrient,” Hartnett White said.

While several other Trump nominees with close ties to the fossil fuel industry and a record of climate science denial were able to win confirmation in the Republican-controlled Senate, Hartnett White proved too controversial. In December, Democrats on the committee wrote to Hartnett White asking for additional information after discovering that many of her written responses were cut-and-pasted from two other Trump nominees.

Her nomination didn’t move forward at the end of last year, meaning Trump was forced to renominate Hartnett White and several other nominees in January.


Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the top Democrat on EPW, vowed to fight her nomination anew. “This is not just another Trump nominee. In the 17 years I have been in the Senate, I have never sat through a hearing as excruciating as Ms. White’s,” Carper said in January. “Even if the administration insists on doubling down on candidates who have proven to be so clearly unacceptable, those of us in the Senate must still be able to recognize when someone is overwhelmingly unfit for such a crucial position.”

Her long history of hard-line beliefs — many of which fly in the face of science and history — and overwhelming lack of qualification for the position she sought gained new attention this week with a rundown in the Daily Beast.

The White House, it seems, couldn’t justify the fight any longer. While Carper and others who opposed Hartnett White’s nomination welcomed the news, the key question will be who Trump finds to nominate next.