Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt Puts Hold On EPA Nomination

Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri

Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri

Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt said Monday that he is placing a hold on Gina McCarthy, President Barack Obama’s pick to run the Environmental Protection Agency, until it moves forward with a project to repair a levee on the Mississippi River, which could delay a full Senate vote on the nominee.

Blunt said the hold would remain in place until the Obama administration issued a timeline for release of a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project.

The project calls for installing pumping stations and closing a 1,500-foot gap in the Mississippi River levee system in Southeast Missouri.

Blunt said the project has been held up due to “disagreements between federal agencies.” In late February, Blunt and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., brought together the agencies – the EPA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Fish and Wildlife Service – to work out their disagreements. But last Friday, according to Blunt, the agencies failed to deliver a timeline for delivering the draft environmental study.

“Once again, the government is arguing with the government while nothing is accomplished,” said Blunt. “These agencies missed their own self-imposed deadline, which is entirely unacceptable.”

A hold is a parliamentary procedure that allows one or more senators to block a vote on the Senate floor.

McCarthy is currently the assistant administrator at the EPA office of air and radiation, and her role in developing some of the most ambitious and controversial air pollution rules of Obama’s first term already ensured that her confirmation hearing would be contentious. The Environment and Public Works committee has not set a date yet for the hearing.

The White House could not be immediately reached for comment.

McCarthy, 58, was instrumental in crafting a 2009 plan to boost fuel efficiency of new cars. The effort required extensive negotiations among representatives of the White House, the auto industry, states such as California, environmentalists and the United Auto Workers union.

In 2011, the EPA rolled out a second phase of mileage standards that would increase average fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Under McCarthy, the air office also issued unprecedented rules to curtail emissions of mercury and is now crafting standards for carbon dioxide from new power plants.