Senate Confirms Andrew Wheeler for Top EPA Post

03 March, 2019, 15:55 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler has been confirmed by the Senate as the next Environmental Protection Agency administrato

The Senate could vote this week on Wheeler's nomination.

"Andrew Wheeler has been instrumental in advancing the most regressive environmental proposals of the Trump Administration -weakening public health protections against dirty cars, heat-trapping methane, toxic mercury, pollution from coal plants, and so much more", Moms Clean Air Force, a civil society group combating air pollution. Wheeler has held the post of acting EPA administrator since July 9, 2018, following Scott Pruitt's resignation earlier that month. The next day, David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist and No. 2 at the Department of the Interior, became acting secretary when Ryan Zinke resigned amid mounting ethics investigations.

But Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said Wheeler was failing to protect the environment and human health and was "nominated to unravel and undo the environmental protections that are now in place".

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate environment committee, called Wheeler "uniquely qualified" to lead EPA and said that under Wheeler the agency is putting forward proposals that "both protect our environment and allow the country's economy to flourish".

"These efforts are of great importance to the state of ME, which is located at the end of our nation's "air pollution tailpipe" and is on the receiving end of pollution generated by coal-fired power plants in other states", she said.

And Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Energy Institute, said Wheeler's "extensive experience" had prepared him to serve as the nation's top environmental official.

Democrats used the vote as an opportunity to call for greater action on climate change, with more than six senators speaking to a almost empty chamber about why the federal government should press for steeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

ACE calls on Wheeler to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard as the law of the land.

"During his time as acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler has been seen as a thoughtful leader who understands the need for sensible environmental policies", said Michelle Bloodworth, the group's president and CEO.

The planet has already warmed more than 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels. The previous administrator granted an unprecedented number of refinery exemptions under the RFS, destroying demand for billions of gallons of USA ethanol.

In December, Wheeler delivered another two victories to the coal industry that, until mid-2017, had paid him to lobby the government.

"Through our deregulatory actions, the Trump administration has proven that burdensome federal regulations are not necessary to drive environmental progress", Wheeler said at the time. He capped off the month by announcing plans to relax a rule restricting how much mercury and other risky pollutants coal-fired plants can release into the air.

America's Power, a trade group that represents coal producers, applauded Wheeler's confirmation.



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