Quantcast

Trump Officially Nominates Former Coal Lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to Head EPA

Politics
Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call / Getty Images

In a long-expected move, President Donald Trump formally nominated acting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to officially run the agency Wednesday.


Wheeler has headed the EPA for six months following the resignation of disgraced former Administrator Scott Pruitt, making him the longest-serving acting administrator in EPA history, The Huffington Post reported. His nomination is expected to clear the Republican-controlled Senate.

"I am honored and grateful that President Trump has nominated me to lead the Environmental Protection Agency," Wheeler said in a statement reported by The Huffington Post. "For me, there is no greater responsibility than protecting human health and the environment, and I look forward to carrying out this essential task on behalf of the American public."

However, many environmental groups disagreed with his self-assessment and raised concerns about his existing record on protecting environmental and public health and fighting climate change.

"The only thing Wheeler is going to protect at the EPA is the profits of polluters," Center for Biological Diversity Government Affairs Director Brett Hartl said in a statement. "I'm sure corporate board rooms will celebrate this nomination. But for anyone who drinks water, breathes air or cares about wildlife, this will be nothing but awful."

Here are some of Wheeler's most controversial decisions as acting-administrator, as cited by the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups.

1. In August, he released a proposal rolling back Obama-era vehicle emissions standards and revoking California's waiver under the Clean Air Act to set its own.

2. Also in August, he unveiled a replacement for former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan that would increase greenhouse gas emissions and cost more than a thousand lives a year, according to the EPA's own calculations.

3. In December, Wheeler released an attack on the Obama-Era Waters of the U.S. rule that would deny protections to streams that only flow if it rains and wetlands not connected to larger waterways.

4. Also in December, Wheeler offered a major boon to the coal industry, rolling back another Obama-era rule meant to limit the emissions of Mercury and other toxins from coal-fired plants, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) pointed out.

Wheeler earned the dubious honor of being only the second nominee for EPA head that the EDF has ever opposed. Pruitt was the first.

"We evaluate executive appointments with the presumption that every President has a right to name his team unless a nominee would threaten the health and safety of the American people. Unfortunately, Andrew Wheeler's record puts him in that category," EDF President Fred Krupp said in a statement.

Wheeler worked for the EPA in the 1990s before joining the staff of Oklahoma Senator and climate denier James Inhofe. He then moved to the private sector, where he lobbied for Murray Energy Corp, the nation's most prominent underground mining company, CNBC reported. Wheeler has said he is "not at all ashamed" of his work for Murray.

Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee responsible for taking the initial vote on Wheeler's nomination, said he was excited to get Wheeler appointed.

"Acting Administrator Wheeler has done an outstanding job leading EPA and is well qualified to run the agency on a permanent basis. I will work with committee members to get him confirmed," he said in a statement reported by The Hill.

The committee announced plans Wednesday to hold a hearing Jan. 16, despite the fact that the EPA is still in shutdown mode, Bloomberg Environment reported. The decision to hold the hearing despite the shutdown was criticized by Democrats and environmental groups.

"There is no clearer statement of the priorities of Donald Trump and Senate Republican leadership than their abdication of their duty to keep the public safe and the government running while ramming through a toxic nominee like coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler during a government shutdown," Sierra Club Legislative Director Melinda Pierce said in a statement. "This is an insult to every EPA employee and federal contractor who has been furloughed or forced to go without a paycheck during this shutdown and a threat to the public that deserves clean air and clean water. Senate Republicans confirming Andrew Wheeler to lead the EPA is the equivalent of leaving the EPA shut down, because he will do nothing to protect the health of the public and everything to enrich corporate polluters."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Aerial assessment of Hurricane Sandy damage in Connecticut. Dannel Malloy / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Extreme weather events supercharged by climate change in 2012 led to nearly 1,000 more deaths, more than 20,000 additional hospitalizations, and cost the U.S. healthcare system $10 billion, a new report finds.

Read More Show Less
Giant sequoia trees at Sequoia National Park, California. lucky-photographer / iStock / Getty Images Plus

A Bay Area conservation group struck a deal to buy and to protect the world's largest remaining privately owned sequoia forest for $15.6 million. Now it needs to raise the money, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
This aerial view shows the Ogasayama Sports Park Ecopa Stadium, one of the venues for 2019 Rugby World Cup. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP / Getty Images

The Rugby World Cup starts Friday in Japan where Pacific Island teams from Samoa, Fiji and Tonga will face off against teams from industrialized nations. However, a new report from a UK-based NGO says that when the teams gather for the opening ceremony on Friday night and listen to the theme song "World In Union," the hypocrisy of climate injustice will take center stage.

Read More Show Less
Vera_Petrunina / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Wudan Yan

In June, New York Times journalist Andy Newman wrote an article titled, "If seeing the world helps ruin it, should we stay home?" In it, he raised the question of whether or not travel by plane, boat, or car—all of which contribute to climate change, rising sea levels, and melting glaciers—might pose a moral challenge to the responsibility that each of us has to not exacerbate the already catastrophic consequences of climate change. The premise of Newman's piece rests on his assertion that traveling "somewhere far away… is the biggest single action a private citizen can take to worsen climate change."

Read More Show Less
Volunteer caucasian woman giving grain to starving African children. Bartosz Hadyniak / E+ / Getty Images

By Frances Moore Lappé

Food will be scarce, expensive and less nutritious," CNN warns us in its coverage of the UN's new "Climate Change and Land" report. The New York Times announces that "Climate Change Threatens the World's Food Supply."

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
British Airways 757. Jon Osborne / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Adam Vaughan

Two-thirds of people in the UK think the amount people fly should be reined in to tackle climate change, polling has found.

Read More Show Less
Climate Week NYC

On Monday, Sept. 23, the Climate Group will kick off its 11th annual Climate Week NYC, a chance for governments, non-profits, businesses, communities and individuals to share possible solutions to the climate crisis while world leaders gather in the city for the UN Climate Action Summit.

Read More Show Less

By Pam Radtke Russell in New Orleans

Local TV weather forecasters have become foot soldiers in the war against climate misinformation. Over the past decade, a growing number of meteorologists and weathercasters have begun addressing the climate crisis either as part of their weather forecasts, or in separate, independent news reports to help their viewers understand what is happening and why it is important.

Read More Show Less