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GOP senator blocks Biden EPA nominees over coal plant decision

The Hill logo The Hill 1/14/2022 Zack Budryk
Cynthia Lummis wearing a suit and tie: Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) leaves a meeting with Senate Republicans to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. © Greg Nash Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) leaves a meeting with Senate Republicans to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) on Friday confirmed she placed a hold on President Biden's nominee for a senior Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) position, citing concerns over the EPA's policy toward a coal plant in her state.

Senate Environment Committee Chair Tom Carper (D-Del.) said on Wednesday that the nomination of David Uhlmann for the EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance had been pulled from the schedule. Carper said during a markup that an unnamed committee member was waiting for further information from the agency before deciding whether to back the nomination.

In a statement Wednesday, Lummis confirmed she was the senator in question, and said that she had decided to block the nomination after the EPA rejected the state's regional haze plan for the Jim Bridger Power Plant in southeastern Wyoming. Regional haze refers to air pollution's impact on visibility in 156 national parks and wilderness areas.

Lummis's office confirmed she would hold all four of Biden's currently unconfirmed EPA nominees over the issue.

"The EPA's decision today is a complete reversal from that of career EPA employees during the previous administration," Lummis said in a statement.

"The Biden EPA's decision here is needlessly hurting Wyoming's energy workers and threatening America's energy independence as well. It is blatantly political, and I will continue to block President Biden's EPA nominees over this issue," she continued. "Wyoming has worked tirelessly to comply with federal law on its regional haze plan for the Jim Bridger Power Plant. The Biden administration's decision to reverse course to appease environmental activists, including climate czars in the White House, will not help the people, or the environment, of Wyoming."

The committee previously voted 10-9 in December to advance Uhlmann's nomination, with Lummis not voting. Republicans in Congress have frequently blasted the Biden administration's environmental policies, which include a target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. After 2021 saw spikes in fuel prices worldwide, due to a variety of factors, the GOP has attacked the administration's energy agenda as hurting the middle class and reducing American energy independence.

"EPA will continue to work with the Senate to confirm our nominees as quickly as possible and we will continue to work with Sen. Lummis and our partners in Wyoming to ensure they have information about agency action in the state," EPA spokesperson Timothy Carroll said in a statement to The Hill.

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.

--Updated at 12:36 p.m.

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