Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is reportedly holding up the confirmation of two of President Obama’s top science nominees, both of whom are expected to play key roles on climate policy.

Menendez has no complaints about the qualifications of the two — physicist John Holdren, nominated to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and marine biologist Jane Lubchenco, nominated to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Rather, the senator is using the holds to get attention for an issue related to Cuba.

Enviros worry that the holds are slowing down work on climate change, reports The Washington Post:

The delay — which could end quickly if Menendez dropped his objection or Senate leaders pushed for a floor vote that would require 60 votes to pass — has alarmed environmentalists and scientific experts who strongly back Holdren and Lubchenco.

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“Climate change damages our oceans more every day we fail to act,” said Michael Hirshfield, chief scientist for the advocacy group Oceana. “We need these two supremely qualified individuals on the job yesterday.”

Stanford University professor Stephen H. Schneider said it was critical that Holdren take office as soon as possible, because “I know no others who bring the triple-play capability of John on security, energy and environment.”

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Is this the same Menendez who last year told Grist that climate change should be a top environmental priority for the Senate, calling the issue “incredibly important”?