Kathleen Hartnett White was a top environmental regulator in Texas from 2001 to 2007. Now, President Trump has chosen her to lead the Council on Environmental Quality, which helps create and implement national policy.
Hartnett White was not available for an interview, but her record since leaving state service suggests she would stand out – even in an administration proudly aligned with industry – for the fervency of her support for fossil fuels.
That fervency has defined her recent policy work.
In an interview with an Oregon Christian television station last year, she warned that solar and wind energy might “disfigure the country,” phrasing her argument in quasi-messianic terms.
“Fossil fuels are the remains of life – plant and animal life,” she said. “They come back through burning them to amplify our lives, to do work that we otherwise would have to do ourselves.”
She has called CO2 “the gas of life,” suggested fossil fuels helped end slavery, and co-written a book about the historical benefits of oil, gas and coal, called Fueling Freedom, which served as a polemic against Obama-era efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
“The book has all kinds of examples of the really beneficial impacts of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere,” she said. “Satellites already show a greening of the earth in part from the very small amount of carbon dioxide involved with using fossil fuels”
The notion that human-made CO2 is helping the environment is widely rejected by science –and by the author of that “greening” research Hartnett White cited. But she ultimately believes the science behind climate change itself is itself profoundly unsettled, going as far to suggest climate policy is part of a communist conspiracy.
“All climate policies assume a far more centralized, powerful government to control the economy and individual lives, like giving us a rationing card for the number of miles we can drive in a year,” she said in a 2016 interview.
While rhetoric like this has a large and enthusiastic audience, it’s easy to imagine it falling flat at a Senate confirmation hearing. But in other interviews and in previous appearances before congressional committees in D.C., she’s also occupied more moderate ground.
In an interview with KUT in 2011, she leaned less on conspiratorial language when describing her philosophy on climate policy.
“I think that teamwork – everybody at the table together – is how you get a really effective solution.”