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Meet The Texan Climate Skeptic Who Could Run Environmental Policy At The White House

Kathleen Harnett White
Screenshot Texas Public Policy Foundation/YouTube
Kathleen Harnett White is President Trump's pick to lead the Council on Environmental Quality.

Kathleen Hartnett White is facing scrutiny from U.S. senators today as part of her nomination to lead President Trump’s Council on Environmental Quality. Hartnett White was Texas' top regulator for six years. Her nomination to the White House post has proved controversial, even in an administration that is no stranger to controversy.

Much of the storm surrounding Hartnett White's nomination stems from her history as a Texas regulator and statements she’s made since, most recently while promoting her book Fueling Freedom.

“The book has all kinds of examples of the really beneficial impacts of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere,” she said in this YouTube Clip.

CO2, of course, is a major contributor to global warming. But Hartnett White has suggested that climate regulation is a form of paganismpushed by communists. She’s called renewable energy “unreliable and parasitic” and she really, really, likes fossil fuels.

“Fossil fuels are the remains of life, plant and animal life,” she said in an interview with a Christian television station in Oregon last year. “They come back through burning them to amplify our lives. To do work that we otherwise would have to do ourselves.”

She’s called CO2, “the gas of life

“She’s not a scientist,” said Jim Marston, director the Environmental Defense Fund in Texas, not concealing his exasperation at Hartnett White’s nomination.

In 30 years at the EDF, he’s butted heads with a lot of officials. But he says Hartnett White stands out for her “unusual” opposition to regulations.

“I say ‘unusual’ because no matter what the standard was, whether it was in regard to smog or mercury … she was against it,” Marston said.

"No matter what the standard was, whether it was in regard to smog or mercury … she was against it."

Hartnett White would likely disagree. From 2001 to 2007, she was the top regulator at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. She hasn’t given interviews since her nomination, but when she spoke to KUT several years ago, she said she supported regulations – just not at the expense of growth.

“Environmental regulators almost entirely don’t know about every technological means you might be able to do this or do that,” she said. “Industry does know that. They’re the ones that develop the emissions-control technology that still allows some growth, yet emissions are reduced.”

The philosophy that growing industry is essential to a healthy environment is shared by her most recent employer, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank.

“Regulation gets in the way of human flourishing,” said Kevin Roberts, executive vice president of the foundation. “Kathleen has a wonderful track record of being an excellent spokeswoman … on how humans can benefit, how humans can flourish, rather than have their lives intruded upon.”

Roberts wouldn't comment on individual statements by Harnett White, but said he believes the media has been unfair to her since her nomination.

Still, her statements make critics say she's unfit for the post and leave some wondering why she was even nominated.

Marston has one theory: She makes others in the administration seem moderate by comparison.

“Maybe it makes [EPA] Administrator [Scott] Pruitt seem not so strange, or even things that the president says don’t seem so whacky if someone else is out there saying it,” he said. “That’s the only thing I can conclude at this point.”

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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