Several environmental groups are asking the United States Senate to confirm the appointment of David Uhlmann to head the EPA’s enforcement and compliance office, which they say is especially important after a Supreme Court decision that limited the agency’s regulatory power.
President Biden nominated Uhlmann to the position more than a year ago. The office holds companies accountable when they break environmental laws.
Leaders of the Environmental Defense Fund, Earthjustice, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, and Natural Resources Defense Council sent a message to the Senate on June 11 asking for the confirmation. They say Uhlmann’s confirmation will protect communities from pollution and help the EPA increase its efforts to enforce existing climate regulations.
“For too long, the EPA has been without a permanent leader in this critically important enforcement role,” the group said in their statement to the Senate.
A Supreme Court decision on June 30 said the EPA does not have the distinct authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. The move is seen as impactful to Biden’s energy transition plans, which include the stalled Build Back Better Act, and could further restrict the EPA’s regulatory authority.
The Washington Post reported that 67 former US attorneys from both Republican and Democratic administrations sent a letter to Congress in June supporting Uhlmann’s nomination. The report also said that from 2018 to 2021 there was nearly a 50% decline in civil inspections, criminal investigations, and cases referred to prosecution by the EPA compared with the average from the 15 years prior.
The EPA has made recent settlements with chemical and oil and gas companies. It also filed a proposed consent decree to reevaluate regulations on the emissions standards of synthetic organic chemical manufacturers.
Earlier this year, dozens of other environmental and agricultural groups asked Congress to give the EPA more power to regulate livestock emissions.
Uhlmann was nominated in June 2021. At the time the White House said he was “an internationally recognized expert on environmental law, leading authority on criminal enforcement of the environmental laws in the United States, and highly-regarded advocate for environmental stewardship and corporate sustainability programs.”