Senate Confirms Climate Change Skeptic and Former Industry Attorney to Head DOJ Environment Division
On Thursday, Oct. 11, Jeffrey Bossert Clark was confirmed as Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). The Senate voted 52 to 45 to confirm him, with Democratic Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri voting to confirm Clark, along with all Republicans present.
During his nomination hearing last year, Clark stood by his statement that climate change is “contestable,” despite scientific consensus on the reality of climate change. He added “I stand by [my opinion] because there are clearly scientists and private entities who disagree.”
Clark was previously a partner at the Washington, D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis, where he represented various industry clients. In 2010, Clark represented BP in lawsuits regarding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the nation’s largest oil spill. The ENRD itself brought a suit against BP regarding the incident.
According to the Department of Justice, the ENRD is responsible for “litigation in trial and appellate courts on behalf of the United States regarding the prevention and clean-up of pollution, challenges to federal programs and activities, the stewardship of public lands and natural resources, property acquisition to promote national security, wildlife protection, and Indian rights and claims.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised Clark, calling him “one of the leading environmental litigators in the country.” He added that Clark “has been counsel in many of the most significant environmental and natural resource cases of the past two decades, both here at the Department of Justice and in private practice.”
Clark faces extensive criticism from Democrats due to his history of industry defense and skepticism of climate change. Senator Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) stated that “although Mr. Clark does have experience in the environmental space, his record at both DOJ and in private practice shows him to have strong opposition to critical environmental protections.” In addition, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) labeled Clark “exactly the wrong person to be in this job of enforcing regulations to protect our environment.”
Clark joins a number of top environment officials nominated by Trump who have previous experience working on behalf of the industry. Andrew Wheeler, Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, formerly worked as a coal and uranium mining lobbyist, and David Bernhardt of the Interior Department also lobbied for the energy industry.