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Republican senator won't fillibuster Obama's EPA pick

Gina McCarthy testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on her nomination to be administrator of the Environm
Gina McCarthy testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on her nomination to be administrator of the Environm

By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Gina McCarthy's embattled nomination to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleared a hurdle on Tuesday when one of her top Republican critics said he would not block a Senate vote on her appointment.

David Vitter of Louisiana, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said he would support a full Senate vote on McCarthy now that the EPA had agreed to a series of requests he made to address complaints about transparency at the agency.

"I've had very productive conversations with EPA over the last several weeks, and believe the agency has taken significant steps forward on our five transparency requests... I see no further reason to block Gina McCarthy's nomination," Vitter said in a statement on his website.

The decision from Vitter comes as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signaled he may start the process for a full Senate vote on McCarthy's nomination this week.

McCarthy is currently the top air quality official at EPA. She was nominated by Obama on March 4.

Among other actions, Vitter said the EPA has agreed to re-train its employees regarding record keeping under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and to commission an independent review of the agency's economic modeling.

Republicans have accused the Obama administration of attempting to circumvent public records laws by using personal emails for official business.

Critics of EPA have also questioned the economic assumptions the agency has used to support controversial regulations.

The EPA has been a lightning rod during the Obama administration, with opponents accusing the agency of regulatory overreach aimed at shutting down the nation's coal plants and stifling U.S. businesses.

Republican anger over the administration's environmental policies grew after President Barack Obama last month called on the EPA to enact new greenhouse gas pollution restrictions on U.S. power plants, many of which are powered by coal.

Some obstacles remain to McCarthy's nomination.

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, said Tuesday that his hold on the nomination is still in place as he seeks answers in a dispute over a river project in his state.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Ros Krasny and Leslie Gevirtz)

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