The full Senate last week confirmed Ernest Moniz as Energy Secretary while a divided Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) voted 10–8 to send the nomination of Gina McCarthy as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. Republicans agreed to lift their boycott on the McCarthy vote only after the EPA agreed to meet a number of transparency commitments.

Moniz, a physicist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was confirmed on May 16 in a unanimous vote (97-0) as head of the Department of Energy. Moniz has expressed support for shale gas production, nuclear energy, and an increased reliance on renewables. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reportedly dropped his hold on Moniz’s nomination after a discussion with the White House about proposed budget funding cuts to a mixed oxide fuel plant being built at the Savannah River nuclear site in his home state. Last month, the full Senate approved Sally Jewell as Interior secretary.

The EPW committee on May 16, meanwhile, voted in favor of McCarthy’s confirmation after acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe assured Republicans that the agency would take additional steps in fulfilling several transparency requests. These included mandating the EPA to retrain its workforce on records management and employee use of personal e-mail accounts, and committing to work with the Science Advisory Board and a separate panel of economic experts with significant private sector experience in whole economy modeling at the macro and micro level.

The EPA also agreed to address alleged “sue and settle” transparency breaches. Republicans have complained the agency uses a so-called “sue and settle” tactic to change policy without adequate public input by settling “sweetheart” lawsuits with special interest groups. The EPA last week not only committed to post on its website notices of intent and petitions for rulemaking submitted to the agency, but it agreed to give interveners in EPA lawsuits immediate notice of any initiation of settlement discussions that come from legal actions brought against the agency.

McCarthy will still reportedly face an uphill battle in the full Senate. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has threatened to hold up her nomination until he gets an update on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to repair a levee on the Mississippi River system.

Sources: POWERnews, EPW, EPA

—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)

NOTE: This story was originally published on May 21