Senate Republicans are poised to reject Gov. Roy Cooper’s nominee to lead the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.
Acting Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Dionne Delli-Gatti is slated to become Cooper’s first nominee to not be confirmed by the Senate. Republicans said they opposed Delli-Gatti’s confirmation because of her lack of awareness of the state’s energy issues and the agency’s related activity.
“For the record, over the past five years, the Senate has confirmed each of the 15 cabinet secretaries Gov. Cooper has proposed, even though we had considerable policy differences with many of those nominees,” Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said Wednesday during a news briefing. “This decision goes beyond basic policy differences.”
Senate Republicans said Delli-Gatti could not answer questions about the Cooper administration’s natural gas strategy during Senate Committee on Agriculture, Energy and the Environment hearings. Delli-Gatti would be charged with overseeing Cooper’s proposal in the position as environmental quality secretary.
They also said she was unaware of an existing plan for another major natural gas pipeline for North Carolina. The Department of Environmental Quality denied the permit for Mountain Valley Pipeline-Southgate project two days later.
Senate Democrats called the confirmation hearings a “sham.” They said Delli-Gatti should get another chance to respond to the questions.
“Secretary Delli-Gatti has been an effective leader as acting Secretary of DEQ, providing continuity and leadership to the department,” said Sen. Mike Woodward, D-Durham, a member of the Committee on Agriculture, Energy and the Environment. “During her time as acting secretary, she has offered creative solutions to protecting our state’s natural resources and has proven to be a true collaborator.”
The final vote on Delli-Gatti’s confirmation is scheduled for Thursday, but Berger said Delli-Gatti does not have enough votes to secure the position. Republicans are calling on Cooper to put forward a new nominee and for Delli-Gatti to withdraw.
Cooper said Delli-Gatti is “eminently qualified” for the position, and he hopes the Senate delays the vote.
“She testified five weeks ago, and they said they were going to bring her back, but they never did,” Cooper said. “This isn’t about what she knows. This isn’t about her qualifications. This is about whether we’re going to have a clean energy future for North Carolina and whether we’re going to be able to protect the air and water of the people of this state.”
Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, said Delli-Gatti will not get a “do-over.”