Published On: Wed, Feb 21st, 2018

Trump Nominee For Director at the Council For Environmental Quality Accused of Plagiarizing Her Answers

Ten Democratic Senators are accusing President Trump’s nominee for Managing Director at the Council for Environmental Quality of copying and pasting her answers from other nominees.

photo/ Pete Linforth via Pixabay

In a letter sent on December 12 to Kathleen Hartnett White, concerned Democratic members of the Environmental and Public Works Committee asked the nominee to explain her responses to their questions about science and policy issues, many of which suspiciously look to have been copied word-for-word from answers that other nominees had previously provided.

Plagiarism allegations aside, White has generated significant controversy regarding her qualifications as she seeks to hold one of the government’s most crucial environmental positions. Her job involves heading an office that coordinates environmental policy across agencies and cooperates with the Executive Office in an effort to carry out the Administration’s environmental policy goals. The whole situation would not even have happened if she used a free online plagiarism checker.

White currently heads the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment, a right-leaning think tank. The think tank made headlines in November after sponsoring a climate change denial conference in Houston and back in the spring had formally requested that the Environmental Protection Agency review its findings in which it had concluded that carbon dioxide poses a danger to human health. Aside from denying climate science, White opposes the Paris climate accord, favors expanded drilling, and believes renewable energy is unrealistic. She has previously served as the chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the main agency for developing and enforcing the state’s environmental standards.

The Democrats’ letter highlights 18 times in which White’s answers to questions mirror those of other nominees. As an example, in her answers to questions regarding climate change from Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), she wrote, “If confirmed, I will work to ensure that any regulator actions are based on the most up to date and objective scientific data, including the ever-evolving understanding of the impact that increasing greenhouse gases have on our changing climate.” When answering similar questions from the committee back in January, EPA nominee Scott Pruitt had offered the same response verbatim.

In a second example, the senators pointed out that White’s answer regarding an EPA air pollution rule matched the answer provided by nominee Bill Wehrum as he was seeking a position in the agency.

When Buzzfeed News sought comment from the EPA, the agency directed them to ask the White House, which has yet to respond. The Texas Public Policy Foundation has also not commented.

The other senators who signed the letter included Ed Markey (D-MA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). White has been given a December 22 deadline to provide a list of every time she lifted material from sources without proper attribution or when she had others submit answers in her place. She is also being asked to submit new answers.

Aside from his concerns that White is essentially serving as a mouthpiece for the fossil fuel industry and demonstrated a lack of basic knowledge about science during her confirmation hearing, Senator Whitehouse expressed frustration that she would simply plagiarize her answers to committee while she could have used it as an opportunity to carefully express her positions. The senator had previously characterized White’s nomination as “outrageous.”

The committee moved her nomination to the full Senate on a party-line vote, with no Democratic members of the committee voting in favor. After the committee vote, Senator Carper, who has been extremely critical of the nominee, made a passionate plea to his Senate colleagues to reject her nomination. A date for the full Senate to vote on her nomination has not yet been set.

Author: Mark Clain

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