EPA inspector general nominee awaits partisan panel vote

Critics question nominee's efforts to exempt the Pentagon from environmental regulations when he worked there.

A Senate Environment and Public Works Committee vote on President Bush's nomination of Alex Beehler to be Environmental Protection Agency inspector general will have to wait until December, a GOP committee spokesman said Friday.

Beehler appears to have the support of all 10 Republicans on the committee, but votes on his nomination were delayed this week because of the difficulty in obtaining a quorum, according to the spokesman. Two previous committee votes on Beehler's nomination were postponed in September because the EPA did not supply information in time for members to review it.

The support of Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., for Beehler's nomination also was initially in question. Chafee said Thursday he would support the nomination. The next Environment and Public Works chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has pledged to try to hold up his nomination if he is confirmed by the committee.

Boxer said this week she opposed Beehler because the EPA had not provided sufficient information about him, and she questioned Beehler's qualifications. "This is not an applicant that makes a whole lot of sense," Boxer said. "I just don't see that he has the background for this."

Critics question Beehler's efforts to exempt the Pentagon from environmental regulations when he was Defense assistant deputy undersecretary for environment, safety and occupational health. They also cite his stint at Koch Industries, where he headed a foundation that distributed grants to anti-regulatory groups.

Beehler also was a senior environmental trial attorney for the Justice Department and a special assistant for legal and enforcement counsel at EPA. Environment and Public Works Chairman Inhofe has praised him for having "a long history of working at multiple agencies within the federal government."