The Oregon Senate has confirmed three new members of the state’s Environmental Quality Commission.
Kathleen George, Molly Kile and Wade Mosby will replace three former members of the five-person commission who were sacked by Gov. Kate Brown in April. The former board members later said they were fired over their choice to lead the Department of Environmental Quality: Richard Whitman, one of Brown’s former advisers.
Brown has said the decision was not related to that choice, but that new leadership was necessary to execute her vision for DEQ, which includes new air quality rules.
Brown’s decision prompted some objections from Republican lawmakers over the appointments.
“By unilaterally firing the members of the commission who were confirmed by this body, the governor is violating the spirit of independent oversight,” Sen. Bill Hansell, a Republican from Athena, told fellow lawmakers.
Hansell urged a no vote based in part on the fact that Brown’s appointments would leave the commission without a representative east of the Interstate 5 corridor.
George is a member of the Grand Ronde Tribal Council and former natural resources consultant. Mosby is a retired forest products executive. They passed with wide margins.
Kile is a scientist at Oregon State University studying public health and exposure to toxics. She passed on a party line vote.
George, Kile and Mosby will oversee an agency in transition.
Whitman is the fourth person to hold the position of DEQ director since longtime director Dick Pedersen resigned citing health-related reasons in the middle of a scandal over the agency’s handling of toxic emissions.
Their appointments also come as Brown is tasking the Environmental Quality Commission with new rules under Cleaner Air Oregon, a change to the state’s air quality rules announced in the wake of news about toxic emissions in Portland.