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Senate confirms Biden nominee to lead EPA’s climate and clean air office

Three years into the Biden administration, it finally has a Senate-confirmed official leading the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) work on clean air and climate change.

In a 50-49 vote, the Senate confirmed Joseph Goffman to be the EPA’s assistant administrator, leading its Office of Air and Radiation.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voted with Republicans in opposition to the nomination.

Goffman has led the office since January 2021 and was formally nominated in March 2022 but hasn’t been confirmed until now.

The office he runs writes high-profile climate and clean air rules, including rules that seek to limit carbon emissions from power plants and cars, in addition to a highly anticipated rule that could soon tighten the nation’s soot pollution limits.

Goffman’s path to confirmation became more precarious in the narrowly divided Senate last year after Manchin said he would vote against President Biden’s EPA nominees over energy policy disagreements, including the power plant rules that were being developed by Goffman’s office.

Goffman previously worked on climate and air issues under the Obama administration and has also worked for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. On the Senate Committee, he worked on amendments to the Clean Air Act, including efforts to combat acid rain.

His record has been praised by many Democrats as safeguarding people from air pollution and climate change, but criticized by Republicans as being bad economically.

“Mr. Goffman’s actions – marked by federal overreach and job-killing regulations – have been a disaster for our country,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said in a floor speech on Wednesday.

“Under President Obama, Mr. Goffman was a chief architect of the ‘Clean Power Plan.’ This rule aimed to close down coal- and gas-fired power plants,” she added. “But it was a direct shot at American energy production.”

EPA Administrator Michael Reagan celebrated the confirmation in a written statement, saying that Goffman is “uniquely skilled at building consensus among stakeholders and crafting policies that tackle global challenges like climate change, while at the same time addressing longstanding pollution concerns in overburdened communities.”

“Over the last three years, Joe has played a central role in developing and executing rules and policies that deliver on President Biden’s ambitious agenda to address the climate crisis, bolster our clean energy economy, and ensure clean air for all,” he added.

— Updated 7:17 p.m.

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