After Republicans ended their week-long boycott, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted out the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The nomination cleared the Senate panel by 10-8, with key Republicans voting no, including Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), the ranking member. He said his support for McCarthy’s nomination on the Senate floor would hinge on the nominee’s answers to Republicans’ requests involving greater transparency at the agency.

“I would urge my colleague [to] put aside the [the threats of a] filibuster,” cautioned Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

All eight Republicans on the committee boycotted a vote on McCarthy’s nomination last Thursday, preventing the panel from advancing the appointment to the Senate floor. A committee vote on McCarthy’s nomination has been delayed for four weeks. Democrats were unable at the time to establish a quorum despite holding a two-seat advantage on the panel. Committee rules require that two minority members be present to establish a quorum.

McCarthy’s nomination is not out of the woods yet. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) still has a hold on McCarthy’s nomination over a dispute involving a water project in his state (see Daily GPI, March 19).

In other action on Capitol Hill, Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe Thursday denied allegations that the agency has made it more difficult for conservative groups and industry, who argue for less EPA oversight, to access public records through Freedom of Information Act requests than left-leaning groups who advocate a powerful agency.

Documents obtained by the Competitive Energy Institute (CEI) reveal that EPA exempts the fees for big green groups, such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, seeking information 92% of the time, while it denies 93% of the waiver requests made by large conservative groups and the oil and natural gas industry.

This “came to my attention yesterday. I have not yet read [the CEI] report,” Perciasepe told the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on energy and power. “It is not EPA’s policy…to treat people differently.”

In a review of letters granting or denying fee waivers between January 2012 and early this year, green groups had their fees waived in 75 out of 82 cases, according to the CEI.

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), chairman of the subcommittee on Energy and Power, called this a “pattern of conduct in which this administration rewards its friends and punishes its opponents.

“EPA routinely grants fee waivers to its favored left-wing groups who demand a more intrusive and powerful EPA, but systematically deny waivers for free information from any group that EPA disagrees with. America will not stand for a government that rewards its friends and punishes its opponents in this discriminatory fashion,” he said.

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