The Senate voted Thursday to confirm a climate change skeptic and former industry attorney to lead the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) environment division.
Lawmakers voted 52 to 45 to confirm Jeffrey Bossert Clark to be the assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), both running for reelection GOP states, joined all Republicans present in voting to confirm Clark.
Clark is and attorney at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, where he has represented numerous industry clients, including oil giant BP in its efforts to fight certain claims from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and spill, and the Chamber of Commerce. He’s said climate change science is “contestable.”
Democrats said Clark’s history shows he would further President Trump’s pro-industry environmental record, to the loss of the climate and public health.
“He is a favorite of the Federalist Society, having chaired that group’s environmental law and practice group. But his nomination is strongly opposed by groups that care about protecting the environment,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
“He is exactly the wrong person to be in this job of enforcing regulations to protect our environment.”
Clark’s responsibilities at the DOJ will include being the top law enforcement official in pursuing claims against polluters and companies that violate environmental laws. He’ll also be responsible for defending Trump’s aggressive deregulatory agenda against an onslaught of lawsuits.
“Jeffrey Bossert Clark’s blatant hostility toward environmental protection is good news for polluters, but awful news for the rest of us,” Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. “The guy who defended the company that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history is not likely to aggressively go after corporate environmental outlaws.”
Trump nominated Clark to the post in June 2017, but the full Senate didn’t act on the nomination until this week.
Clark will replace Jeffrey Wood, who has been acting assistant attorney general in the environment division since Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.