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Smooth Sailing for White House Science Office, Ocean Nominees

An uneventful hearing this morning for John Holdren, nominated to run the White House science and technology office and Jane Lubchenco, slated to be administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency.

Lubchenco said her science priorities include ending overfishing, "getting the satellite program back on track," and setting up a National Climate Service. Each was also a priority for her predecessor, Conrad Lautenbacher. Holdren made little news, although he announced his intention to fill the four associate director posts that existed during the Clinton Administration before his predecessor, John Marburger, eliminated positions covering the environment, and national security, and international affairs. He also promised to "reinvigorate" the National Science and Technology Council, an interagency coordinating body that he said has "languished" under the Bush Administration.

There was a minor skirmish with Senator David Vitter (R–LA) over a series of papers Holdren had written or cowritten, dating back to 1971, making dire projection on environmental issues. In one case, a 26-year-old Holdren wrote that "eco-catastrophe seems almost certain." Vitter wondered whether the statement was "an irresponsible prediction," but Holdren parried, suggesting instead that he was simply calling attention to mounting ecological worries.

Who Lubchenco's boss will be at the Department of Commerce is suddenly in question. In an unexpected development, Commerce secretary nominee Judd Gregg today pulled out of the nomination process citing irreconcilable differences with President Obama.