Could a moderate influence be coming to the EPA?

Jeffery Holmstead, President Donald Trump’s reputed choice for Deputy EPA Administrator

Photo courtesy of Bracewell LLP

How far through the Looking Glass have we gone that an oil-and-gas lobbyist and former George W. Bush administration official could be considered a moderating influence at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?

Axios reporters Jonathan Swan and Amy Harder are reporting that the Trump Administration will appoint Jeffery Holmstead as the deputy EPA administrator to Climate Change denier EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Swann and Harder suggest that Holmstead could be a “moderating” influence on Pruitt, a man so extreme he sued the EPA 13 times to prevent implementation of its regulations during his stint as attorney general of Oklahoma.

Now Holmstead does appear to be more moderate in  views than Pruitt and certainly is more moderate than many members of the Trump Administration and Congress on energy issues, but it should be noted that his current job is working as a lobbyist for companies looking to build new coal-fired power plants, refineries, renewable energy sources, and electric transmission infrastructure.

Moving directly from those positions into the EPA as a deputy administrator should give solar advocates some pause.

On the other hand (and perhaps more importantly), Holmstead has worked on pro-environmental policies at the EPA in the past. As the energy consigliere to both Bush Administrations, he helped pass and oversee implementation of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, which were designed to curb acid rain, urban air pollution and toxic air emissions.

From 2001 to 2005, he headed the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation oversaw the implementation of the Mercury Rule (designed to lower the emissions of mercury into the atmosphere by coal-fired power plants), the Clean Air Interstate Initiative (which capped the  amount of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) such plants could emit along the East Coast) and the New Source Review program (which protects air quality standards when new plants are authorized to be built).

Harder and Swann report that the White House had greenlighted the appointment and that Pruitt has met with Holmstead and likes him. But since Holmstead has to be approved by the Senate, it’s not necessarily a slam dunk. Axios reports he may face opposition from conservatives because of his “moderate” positions.