Senate confirms ex-coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to lead EPA

Katie Ramirez
March 3, 2019

On Feb. 28, the U.S. Senate confirmed Andrew Wheeler to be the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Senators voted 52-47 to confirm Wheeler, who was nominated by President Donald Trump after former administrator Scott Pruitt resigned past year amid a series of ethics allegations.

Susan Collins argued Wheeler's efforts to roll back standards on emissions blamed for climate change takes the country in the wrong direction. Over 18,000 Earthjustice supporters nationwide sent letters of opposition to their Senators on the nomination.

As acting administrator, Wheeler "hasn't demonstrated a desire or a will to make any meaningful progress on clean drinking water standards and has rolled back clean air standards that are directly impacting West Virginians", Manchin said. "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". The former coal lobbyist was confirmed by a vote of 52 to 47. In January, former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan took over as acting secretary of defense after James Mattis' abrupt departure.

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. The Senate approved his appointment for that post on April 12, 2018 by a vote of 53 to 45.

"Andrew Wheeler should not lead EPA", Democratic Senator Tom Udall said.

"Time and time again Mr. Wheeler has proven that his environmental policies are nearly as destructive and extreme has his predecessors'", he said.

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"I look forward to collaborating with Administrator Wheeler to put forward sound policies that not only protect Indiana's environment but allow the Hoosier economy to flourish". Collins added that her state of ME is at the receiving end of pollution generated by coal-fired power plants in other states.

Wheeler's record-breaking reign as acting administrator was marked by an unprecedented assault on greenhouse gas regulations amid historic wildfires and hurricanes that scientists say offer a preview of the rapidly warming world to come.

And Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Geoff Cooper added, "We congratulate Administrator Wheeler on his Senate confirmation". The previous administrator granted an unprecedented number of refinery exemptions under the RFS, destroying demand for billions of gallons of US ethanol.

In response, Wheeler, despite admitting he hadn't read the multiagency report, dismissed its findings and threatened to intervene in the drafting of the next National Climate Assessment. He proposed loosening requirements that coal-fired power plants reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

In the seven months since, Wheeler has released them rapid-fire.

BREAKING: We respond to the confirmation of Andrew Wheeler by the Senate to head the Environmental Protection Agency. But opposed Wheeler's confirmation this time, he said, in light of his push to freeze vehicle fuel efficiency standards and to revisit the cost-benefit analysis the agency used to impose limits on mercury pollution that power companies have already achieved. "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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