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Kathleen Hartnett White, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, stammered through her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
When Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, a Democrat, asked if she believes climate change is real, she wavered but settled on the right answer: “I am uncertain. No, I’m not. I jumped ahead. Climate change is of course real.”
That’s a surprise. Hartnett White, a former chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, has a long history of challenging climate science and promoting fossil fuels. Notably, she has said that carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant.
But that’s not to say she’s made peace with established science. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, quizzed Hartnett White over how much excess heat in the atmosphere is absorbed by oceans. “I believe there are differences of opinions on that,” she said, “that there’s not one right answer.” For the record, the number is about 90 percent.
Then things got bizarre. Appearing frustrated with equivocating answers, Whitehouse pressed her on basic laws of nature, like whether heat makes water expand. “I do not have any kind of expertise or even much layman study of the ocean dynamics and the climate-change issues,” she said.
Watch below, if you dare:
After the hearing, Whitehouse tweeted, “I don’t even know where to begin … she outright rejects basic science.”
Sure, the Arizona facility has been a significant source of funding for schools, infrastructure, and other public services. But the Sierra Club estimates that it has contributed to 16 premature deaths, 25 heart attacks, 300 asthma attacks, and 15 asthma emergency room visits each year. That adds up to total annual health costs of more than $127 million.
Beyond that, after natural gas prices fell, the coal-fired plant became unprofitable. So the owners of the Navajo Generating Station decided to close the plant by year’s end. Still, the Interior Department, which owns a 24-percent stake in the facility, has worked to extend a lease agreement through 2019 as it searches for another entity to operate it.
The closure won’t just shutter the plant, but also likely will close a nearby mine. Peabody, the largest coal-mining company in the U.S., began operating on Navajo land in the 1960s. Its Kayenta Mine’s biggest customer is the Navajo Generating Station.
But the mine’s demise might not be a bad thing, as it has depleted billions of gallons of water in the Navajo Aquifer and has led to water shortages for residents of the Navajo Indian Reservation.
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