Senate committee approves EPA, Commerce nominees

By Kevin Bogardus | 07/14/2021 12:04 PM EST

EPA nominee Jane Nishida during her confirmation hearing. Francis Chung/E&E News

Jane Nishida, President Biden’s nominee to lead EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs, moved closer to full Senate confirmation today.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved Nishida by voice vote this morning along with Alejandra Castillo for assistant secretary for economic development at the Department of Commerce.

“They are exceptional individuals and are well-prepared to serve in positions to which they’ve been nominated. Both are established federal government leaders,” said Chair Tom Carper (D-Del.), adding they will bring “decades of leadership experience” to the administration.

Nishida is currently the principal deputy assistant administrator in EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs, which she will lead as assistant administrator if confirmed. Earlier this year, she served as acting administrator for close to two months as EPA awaited confirmation of Michael Regan.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the panel’s ranking member, said she was pleased to support Nishida’s nomination. “I appreciate the service Ms. Nishida has given over the years and her responsiveness to my questions for the record,” Capito said.

The nominees won praise from other GOP senators too. “I had the opportunity to get to know both individuals, and I just want to say that they’re excellent choices,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said.

Initially, the committee planned to also consider the nomination of Jeffrey Prieto for EPA’s general counsel (E&E Daily, July 12). The committee released an updated advisory yesterday that removed Prieto’s nomination from the markup.

In response to an E&E News reporter’s question yesterday evening, Carper didn’t say why Prieto was pulled. “I think he’s an excellent candidate,” Carper said.

A Democratic Senate aide said Prieto‚Äôs nomination committee vote “was pushed back due to scheduling conflicts.” “We believe his nomination will be successfully reported out of the committee by the end of the month,” the aide said.

An EPA spokesman also said the agency believes Prieto will be confirmed by the Senate. “Jeffrey is a highly qualified candidate, and his nomination process continues to go well,” Nick Conger, the agency spokesman, told E&E News. “We look forward to working with the committee and the Senate to see him confirmed.”

Reporter George Cahlink contributed.