Thursday, 21 March, 2019

Senate confirms coal lobbyist Wheeler as EPA head

Andrew Wheeler addresses staff at EPA headquarters Andrew Wheeler addresses staff at EPA headquarters
Cary Marshall | 03 March, 2019, 15:56

In a statement this week, Collins said she believes Wheeler, "unlike Scott Pruitt, understands the mission of the EPA and acts in accordance with ethical standards; however, the policies he has supported as acting administrator are not in the best interest of our environment and public health".

The EPA has announced plans to place legal limits on the chemicals but has not done so yet. "We congratulate Andrew Wheeler on his confirmation to formally lead EPA and encourage him to expeditiously release a legally-defensible rulemaking for E15 use year-round and recommit to finalizing the rule by the June 1 summer driving season", said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE.

Susan Collins, a moderate Republican senator from ME, has said she would oppose Wheeler's nomination, arguing his efforts to roll back standards on emissions blamed for climate change took the country in the wrong direction.

"I believe that Mr. Wheeler, unlike Scott Pruitt, understands the mission of the EPA and acts in accordance with ethical standards; however, the policies he has supported as Acting Administrator are not in the best interest of our environment and public health, particularly given the threat of climate change to our nation", Collins, who supported Wheeler's confirmation as deputy EPA administrator past year, said in a statement.

In the seven months since, Wheeler has released them rapid-fire. Mitch McConnell, who has received over $2 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry and thousands from coal interests throughout his legislative career, joined with the majority voting in favor of Wheeler's confirmation. At Wheeler's confirmation hearing last month, he said he considers climate change an "eight or nine" on a 1-to-10 scale of concern but that it is not the greatest crisis. "With each rollback, Wheeler is stacking the deck in favor of the polluting corporations who formerly employed him, leaving our families to pay the price of more toxic pollution with their health". So far, that appears unlikely, as many nations aren't hitting the emissions targets they set as part of the 2015 Paris climate accord.

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Meanwhile, Republican Senator John Barrasso, 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".

While running the EPA on an interim basis, Wheeler oversaw the weakening of Obama-era rules limiting carbon and mercury emissions from power plants and standards on carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks.

While Wheeler doesn't outright deny climate change, he has also downplayed its urgency during his time in the Trump administration.

"The Senate has taken decisive action to confirm Andrew Wheeler as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency", Barrasso said.

"Unlike with some nominees, we do not have to speculate about what Mr. Wheeler will do in office", Gore said. "The senators who voted to entrust Mr. Wheeler with our environment know exactly what he will do with that power".

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