Senate Confirms Andrew Wheeler for Top EPA Post

Olive Hawkins
March 3, 2019

Wheeler has served as the agency's acting administrator since his predecessor, Scott Pruitt, stepped down in July while facing several ethics scandals.

Unlike Scott Pruitt, Wheeler won't waste time and taxpayer money searching for used Trump Hotel mattresses and fancy hand lotions.

"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. He cited the agency's failure to limit the amount of highly toxic chemicals contaminating drinking water in West Virginia and around the country. "Certainty, and the innovation that thrives in a climate of certainty, are key to progress".

It's a sad day for public health and the EPA, but mission accomplished for the fossil fuel and chemical industries.

With two years under their belt now, however, Hartl says the agency has likely learned from the legal setbacks and will be more deliberative in its attempts to rollback regulations. Susan Collins was the only Republican voting against him.

Senators voted 52-47 on Thursday to confirm Wheeler, who was nominated by President Donald Trump after former administrator Scott Pruitt resigned under pressure a year ago. They have longed for one of their own calling the shots at the agency, and now they finally have their man in Andrew Wheeler.

Sadly, once again, Senator McConnell and his Republican majority put the wealth of a few over the health of the many by confirming the coal industry's favored Wheeler-dealer to what used to be the leading environmental enforcement post in the federal government.

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America's Power, a trade group that represents coal producers, applauded Wheeler's confirmation. "And his record on climate change is simply disqualifying", he said. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

The world has warmed more than 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial levels, and a United Nations report last fall concluded that humans need to cut their carbon emissions almost in half over the coming decade to stave off the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. So far, that appears unlikely, as many nations aren't hitting the emissions targets they set as part of the 2015 Paris climate accord. Global emissions also rose in 2018.

Wheeler's EPA has continued efforts as well to scale back Obama-era constraints on coal-fired power plants, and with Wheeler at the helm the agency proposed a rollback of rules that regulate leaks of methane from oil and gas facilities. "Under acting Administrator Wheeler's leadership, the EPA has taken a different approach".

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

In a speech on the Senate floor following that vote, Senator Tom Carper, a Democrat from DE, said that in some cases Wheeler has "accelerated the environmental damage and regulatory zeal" that Pruitt began.

"Unlike with some nominees, we do not have to speculate about what Mr. Wheeler will do in office", Gore said. As acting administrator of EPA, he has prioritized common-sense policies that protect our air and water, while allowing our economy to grow.

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