Quantcast

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

Insights + Opinion
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."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Watchfield Solar Park in England. RTPeat / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Simon Evans

During the three months of July, August and September, renewables generated an estimated total of 29.5 terawatt hours (TWh), compared with just 29.1TWh from fossil fuels, the analysis shows.

Read More Show Less
A demonstrator waves an Ecuadorian flag during protests against the end of subsidies to gasoline and diesel on Oct. 9 in Quito, Ecuador. Jorge Ivan Castaneira Jaramillo / Getty Images

The night before Indigenous Peoples' Day, an Indigenous-led movement in Ecuador won a major victory.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Protesters block the road outside Mansion House in London during an XR climate change protest. Gareth Fuller / PA Images via Getty Images

One week into Extinction Rebellion's planned two weeks of International Rebellion to demand action on the climate crisis, the London police have banned the group from the city.

Read More Show Less
Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

Read More Show Less
Pexels
  • Mice exposed to nicotine-containing e-cigarette vapor developed lung cancer within a year.
  • More research is needed to know what this means for people who vape.
  • Other research has shown that vaping can cause damage to lung tissue.

A new study found that long-term exposure to nicotine-containing e-cigarette vapor increases the risk of cancer in mice.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Demonstrators with The Animal Welfare Institute hold a rally to save the vaquita, the world's smallest and most endangered porpoise, outside the Mexican Embassy in DC on July 5, 2018. SAUL LOEB / AFP / Getty Images

By John R. Platt

Six months: That's how much time Mexico now has to report on its progress to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus) from extinction.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

It may seem innocuous to flush a Q-tip down the toilet, but those bits of plastic have been washing up on beaches and pose a threat to the birds, turtles and marine life that call those beaches home. The scourge of plastic "nurdles," as they are called, has pushed Scotland to implement a complete ban on the sale and manufacture of plastic-stemmed cotton swabs, as the BBC reported.

Read More Show Less
Air conditioners, like these in a residential and restaurant area of Singapore city, could put a massive strain on electricity grids during more intense heatwaves. Taro Hama @ e-kamakura / Moment / Getty Images

By Tim Radford

Scientists in the U.S. have added a new dimension to the growing hazard of extreme heat. As global average temperatures rise, so do the frequency, duration and intensity of heatwaves.

Read More Show Less