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."
BREAKING: We respond to the news that President Trump has nominated Andrew Wheeler today to be the permanent admini… https://t.co/SGUAdzEIEq— Center for Bio Div (@Center for Bio Div)1547058046.0
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.
Re: Andrew Wheeler's nomination: His leadership at EPA would be a continuation of the dangerous approach forged by… https://t.co/E4ipPOY8DH— Fred Krupp (@Fred Krupp)1547064238.0
"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."
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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