Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

'As Trumpian As it Gets': Coal Lobbyist Andrew Wheeler Moves Closer to Full-Time EPA Spot

Insights + Opinion
'As Trumpian As it Gets': Coal Lobbyist Andrew Wheeler Moves Closer to Full-Time EPA Spot
Win McNamee / Getty Images

Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Andrew Wheeler is one step closer to deregulating the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The former coal lobbyist, who critics say is even worse for the environment than his scandal-plagued predecessor Scott Pruitt, secured a key approval by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Tuesday, sending President Trump's nominee to the full Senate for approval.


The committee voted 11-10 along party lines to advance the nomination.

"Mr. Wheeler has done an outstanding job leading the Environmental Protection Agency these past six months," Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, remarked today. "I urge my colleagues to vote in support of his nomination to be the administrator."

Wheeler has been at the post since Pruitt resigned amid a flurry of alleged ethical breaches in July. But unlike Pruitt, whose tenure was sullied by sketchy use of taxpayer money on 'round-the-clock security, a soundproof phone booth and premium flights, the consummate Washington insider has advanced the interests of the fossil fuel industry and other corporate polluters by quietly weakening or rolling back federal regulations.

Civil fines charged to polluters under the Trump EPA fell 85 percent during the last fiscal year when compared to the average annual amount charged over the past two decades, The Washington Post recently reported. That makes last year the lowest average year for penalties since 1994.

At his Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) asked if Wheeler agreed with the scientific community's belief that climate change is "one of the great crises facing our planet."

"I would not call it the greatest crisis, no sir," Wheeler responded. "I consider it a huge issue that has to be addressed globally."

Wheeler previously worked as a lobbyist for the coal mining conglomerate Murray Energy Corporation. His other previous clients include natural gas firms Xcel Energy and Bear Head LNG, uranium mining company Energy Fuels Resources and the Nuclear Energy Institute, according to Bloomberg BNA.

As acting EPA administrator, Wheeler has not grasped "that saving coal is not part of that mission and not his job," said Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, as quoted by the Associated Press.

Environmental groups are in vehement opposition the nomination.

"Putting a coal lobbyist in charge of the EPA is about as Trumpian as it gets," Paulo Lopes, public lands policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity, told EcoWatch in a statement after the vote. "This isn't just the fox guarding the henhouse. This is unlocking the door, opening the cages and letting the fox waltz right in to have his way. It's going to be a disaster."

A report from Reuters revealed that Wheeler has held nearly 20 times more meetings with companies or industry groups than with conservationists during his first two months on the job.

The Sierra Club is urging the full Senate to reject Wheeler's nomination.

"The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee should have voted unanimously to reject the nomination of a fossil fuel lobbyist who has spent his career undermining the vital safeguards that keep our air and water clean," Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a press release. "As his nomination moves to the Senate floor, we urge Senators to consider the clean air and water protections their constituents rely on, among them safeguards from toxic mercury, PFAS pollution, and emissions from cars and trucks, and vote no on this dangerous nomination."

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. struck down the Trump administration's proposed changes to the SNAP benefits program. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. late Sunday struck down the Trump administration's proposed changes to the SNAP benefits program, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of people from losing badly needed federal food assistance.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Demonstrators hold signs at an anti-tar sands march in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2015. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Andrea Germanos

A group of Indigenous women and their allies on Monday urged the heads of major global financial institutions to stop propping up the tar sands industry and sever all ties with the sector's "climate-wrecking pipelines, as well as the massively destructive extraction projects that feed them."

Read More Show Less

Trending

Poor eating habits, lack of exercise, genetics, and a bunch of other things are known to be behind excessive weight gain. But, did you know that how much sleep you get each night can also determine how much weight you gain or lose?

Read More Show Less
A flying squirrel in Florida. Despite their name, flying squirrels do not actually fly, but rather glide between trees. Danita Delimont / Gallo Images / Getty Images Plus

In January of 2019, a concerned citizen in Marion County, Florida noticed something strange: Someone was trapping flying squirrels.

Read More Show Less
New research finds baby bottles may release millions of microplastic particles with each feeding. Beeki / Needpix

The process of preparing and mixing a baby bottle formula seems innocuous, but new research finds this common occurrence is actually releasing millions of microplastic particles from the bottle's lining, Wired reported.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch