Just two weeks ago, President Obama introduced Gina McCarthy, an expert on federal air quality law, as his choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Given the severity of the climate crisis and the scope of the administration’s policy options, McCarthy is arguably Obama’s “most significant” second-term nominee.
At this point, however, the nomination is already facing far-right opposition. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) announced yesterday he’s blocking McCarthy, not because he disagrees with her, but because she currently heads EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, and that office has raised concerns about something called the St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project.
Blunt said McCarthy’s nomination would go nowhere until the Obama administration agreed to provide him with a “concrete timeline for progress” on the project.
And what, pray tell, is the St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project? I’m glad you asked: it’s a $100 million slice of pork in Missouri that even internal Army Corps of Engineers memos have described as “swine” and “a bad project.”
In 2000 … the St. John’s Bayou-New Madrid Floodway levee-and-pump project was … almost too dumb, ecologically destructive and transparently deceptive to believe. It was, as a top Corps official later wrote in an internal email, “an economic dud with huge environmental consequences.”
“Huge” was putting it mildly. Corps documents suggested the project would drain more acres of wetlands than all U.S. developers drained in a typical year, cutting off one of the last swath of Mississippi River floodplain that was still connected to the river. The Fish and Wildlife Service warned that it “would cause substantial, irretrievable losses of nationally significant fish and wildlife resources, and greatly diminish rare and unique habitats in southeastern Missouri.” And the mitigation plan was a joke.
Michael Grunwald’s report on this is equal parts painful and hilarious, explaining why this project is practically a case study in boondoggles, complete with Corps reports, filled with “third-grade errors,” which were ultimately rejected by a federal judge.
And if the Obama administration doesn’t resuscitate the project to Roy Blunt’s satisfaction, the Republican senator intends to block the EPA nominee.
This has been the latest installment of “The Senate Confirmation Process Is Badly Broken.”