By Patrick Crow
President Donald Trump has nominated David Ross, the director of the environmental protection unit at Wisconsin’s Department of Justice, to head EPA’s Office of Water.
Before taking the Wisconsin job in August 2016, Ross was a Wyoming assistant attorney general working with the state Department of Environmental Quality on water issues. In that role, he worked on the 13-state lawsuit challenging the Obama Administration’s Waters of the U.S. rule.
Ross is a native of Appleton, Wis. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received a degree from Vermont Law School, which is known for its environmental law program.
The nominee has served on a water subpanel of the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, has worked as a California-based environmental consultant, and has practiced environmental law in Washington, D.C.
His Senate confirmation hearing may be jeopardized by friction between EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the senior Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Carper has complained that Pruitt has not fully responded to his nearly two dozen inquiries this year. He has urged the environment committee not to consider EPA nominees until those responses are forthcoming.
That contretemps could delay the Ross nomination but not block it. A change in the Senate’s rules no longer allows the minority party to filibuster executive branch nominations. If 52 Senate Republicans vote for his appointment, Ross would be confirmed.
Administrator Pruitt said, “David is especially qualified to head EPA’s Office of Water and to carry out the Trump Administration’s mission of returning power back to the states and advancing regulatory certainty.”
The National Association of Clean Water Agencies noted Ross has won bipartisan praise from many environmental officials and said it looks forward to working with him on the association’s clean water priorities.
David Freudenthal, former Wyoming governor, said, “Dave Ross is first and foremost an excellent, pragmatic lawyer. His private practice experience in D.C. combined with his service in two state environmental protection agencies make him uniquely qualified to implement America’s nuanced structure of federal and state environmental protection.”
David Glatt, chief of North Dakota’s Environmental Health Section, said, “Ross exhibits an excellent understanding of western water issues and challenges faced by rural states and tribal nations. His knowledge and work experience coupled with his willingness to pursue a renewed approach to cooperative federalism make him an excellent candidate for the position.”
While with the Crowell & Moring law firm in Washington, D.C., Ross represented the American Farm Bureau Federation in its 2012 lawsuit against the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan. The Bureau argued that EPA’s total maximum daily load for pollutants washing off land effectively asserted federal control over local land use and was unconstitutional. It lost the initial case and the appeal.
Also at Crowell, Ross represented the National Association of Home Builders and the Wisconsin Builders Association in a successful case involving stormwater discharges. His clients argued that EPA didn’t have to make individual construction-site stormwater plans subject to public review and comment.
Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved Jeffrey B. Clark to serve as the head of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD).
Clark, now a partner in the Kirkland & Ellis law firm, was ENRD deputy director from 2001 to 2005. The bureau prosecutes violations of environmental law and defends the administration’s energy and environmental regulations. Clark’s nomination was awaiting a vote by the full Senate.
About the Author: Patrick Crow covered the U.S. Congress and federal agencies for 21 years as a reporter for industry magazines. He has reported on water issues for the past 15 years. Crow is now an Austin, Texas-based freelance writer.