Trump Officially Nominates Former Coal Lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to Head EPA
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."
Britain's Prince William interviewed famed broadcaster David Attenborough on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Switzerland.
During the sit-down, the 92-year-old naturalist advised the world leaders and business elite gathered in Davos this week that we must respect and protect the natural world, adding that the future of its survival—as well as humanity's survival—is in our hands.
What's more, the accounting firm predicts that another 21 million electric cars will be on the road globally over the next decade due to growing market demand for clean transportation, government subsidies, as well as bans on fossil fuel cars.
By Matthew Savoca
Plastic pollution in the world's oceans has become a global environmental crisis. Many people have seen images that seem to capture it, such as beaches carpeted with plastic trash or a seahorse gripping a cotton swab with its tail.
Greenland is melting about four times faster than it was in 2003, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, a discovery with frightening implications for the pace and extent of future sea level rise.
"We're going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future," study lead author and Ohio State University geodynamics professor Dr. Michael Bevis said in a press release. "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"
Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.
The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.
Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.
Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.
By Andrea Germanos
Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.
By Patrick Rogers
If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.