Published: Sun, March 03, 2019
Research | By Raquel Erickson

ACE Responds to Wheeler's Confirmation as EPA Chief

ACE Responds to Wheeler's Confirmation as EPA Chief

Environmental and public health advocates on Thursday sharply condemned Senate Republicans for a "shameful" vote confirming ex-coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a 54-year-old Washington insider with years of experience working as a congressional staffer, was nominated by Trump in January to permanently replace Scott Pruitt, who resigned in July after widespread criticism over his spending and conduct in office.

Elizabeth Gore, senior vice president for political affairs at the advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund, said in an email that senators who cast their vote on Wheeler knew exactly what sort of choice they faced.

BREAKING: We respond to the confirmation of Andrew Wheeler by the Senate to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

At his confirmation hearing in January, Wheeler highlighted dozens of significant rules that the EPA has begun to roll back in the past two years, and he made clear to lawmakers that he meant to continue the Trump administration's reversal of environmental regulations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled the confirmation vote for Wheeler on Thursday.

One Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of ME, voted against Wheeler's confirmation Thursday on the grounds that he had worked to water down federal rules curbing greenhouse gas pollution from power plants and to weaken fuel standards for the nation's cars and pickup trucks.

Environmental groups, meanwhile, slammed Wheeler, saying that while his behaviour is "less cartoonish" than Pruitt, he supports the same policies.

"There is no doubt that the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change pose a significant threat" to ME and the nation, Collins said, adding that pollution from coal-fired power plants threatens Maine's natural resources, "from our working forests, fishing and agricultural industries, to tourism and recreation".

While Wheeler rejected President Donald Trump's view that climate change is a hoax, he said it's not the "greatest crisis" we face. "RFA looks forward to continuing to work with him to implement a strong Renewable Fuel Standard, make year-around E15 a reality and to fix the damage done as a result of the unprecedented number of small refiner waivers granted by his predecessor". "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".

The country's environmental regulatory agency has a new boss. At his confirmation hearing in January, Wheeler talked about the dozens of rules that the EPA has rolled back over the past few years. Last week, he broke off negotiations with California over a national vehicle fuel economy standard, setting the administration up for a lengthy legal fight with the Golden State, which is allowed under the Clean Air Act to set its own pollution limits. "But it's only a matter of time before his dirty dealings land him in the same trash heap as his predecessor", said Emily Knobbe, EPA policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona-based environmental group.

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