US Senate confirms ex-coal lobbyist to head environment regulator

Mindy Sparks
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 on Thursday to confirm Wheeler, who was nominated by President Donald Trump after former administrator Scott Pruitt resigned under pressure previous year.

Senator John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said Wednesday that Trump picked the right man for the job.

"Throughout his career, Andrew Wheeler has shown a clear disregard for the EPA's mission to protect the public and environment", said Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein from California, after voting against him.

Despite the majority that Trump's fellow Republicans hold in the Senate, his confirmation process was not without complications.

"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", she said.

Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, won approval in a 52-47 vote primarily along party lines. Pruitt faced the same pressure from Trump to roll back standards as Wheeler, but defending the ethics probes took up so much of his time that the measures weren't released. Regulatory proposals to replace the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era rule to cut carbon pollution from power plants, and to revise the 2015 Waters of the US rule, which sought to safeguard drinking water for millions of Americans, shows that Wheeler "is serious about clear air and clear water while also understanding there's an important role for states and local communities to play", Barrasso said. "We look forward to continuing to work with Mr. Wheeler and his staff on issues critical to farmers and ranchers". 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. He proposed loosening requirements that coal-fired power plants reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The EPA has announced plans to place legal limits on the chemicals but has not yet done so.

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.

Wheeler was not making "meaningful progress" on clean water standards either, Democrat Joe Manchin said, citing the agency's failure to limit the amount of highly toxic chemicals contaminating drinking water in West Virginia and around the country. "The good news I think from an environmental health perspective is that because they botched the first two years, by the time some of these things are done, we're already getting really close to the end of the Trump administration".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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