Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Acting EPA Head Is Still Unconfirmed After 100+ Days in Position

Politics
Acting EPA Head Is Still Unconfirmed After 100+ Days in Position
Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testified Aug. 1 before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Win McNamee / Getty Images

Andrew Wheeler, the acting administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), might continue to oversee the office without Senate confirmation until President Trump's term is over, according to reports from Bloomberg and the Huffington Post.

The former coal lobbyist has been the temporary EPA boss for more than 100 days ever since his predecessor Scott Pruitt resigned in July after a long list of ethics scandals.


Wheeler—as he moves to disband a scientific panel that reviews air pollutants and drafts a plan to allow coal plants to emit more toxic mercury—has yet to be formally nominated by President Trump, who likely wants to avoid a contentious confirmation process.

Bloomberg explained:

The duration of Wheeler's time at EPA's helm depends on whether Trump nominates someone else as EPA chief in his stead. But Wheeler could serve as acting administrator for years under the 1998 federal vacancies law, with virtually no legal limitations on his power to lead the EPA, said Anne Joseph O'Connell, a professor of law at Stanford University.

"Formally, these acting officials have the full authority of the position," she said. "Functionally, there is a debate, because they don't have the stature" of fully confirmed leaders, and may lack the authority, guaranteed tenure and gravitas to effect big change.

Wheeler has already served the fifth-longest tenure as an acting EPA head, according to HuffPost.

HuffPost also noticed that on Wednesday—Wheeler's 100th day in the position—an EPA news release about his visit to Louisiana changed his title from "acting administrator" to "administrator" in the subject line.

Screenshot of Oct. 16 EPA news release. Red underline added by EcoWatch

The title change could have been a mistake but the EPA declined to comment on the record to reporter Alexander C. Kaufman. The office later issued a press release with the title "acting administrator" in the subject line, HuffPost reported.

In response to the reports, the Sierra Club noted that the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 says an acting administration official may serve "no longer than 210 days beginning on the date the vacancy occurs."

"Regardless of what he may believe, Andrew Wheeler cannot rewrite the Vacancies Act just as he cannot disregard bedrock environmental laws to give free reign to the corporate polluters he once and seemingly still believes he works for," Sierra Club legislative director Melinda Pierce said in a press release. "With a toxic record of attacking public health and clean air and water in his 100 days as acting Administrator, Wheeler has proven he's not fit for the job, and certainly not deserving of the permanent title."

Lakota spiritual leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse attends a demonstration against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 28, 2015. Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is planning to cancel the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on the first day of his administration, a document reported by CBC on Sunday suggests.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Seabirds often follow fishing vessels to find easy meals. Alexander Petrov / TASS via Getty Images

By Jim Palardy

As 2021 dawns, people, ecosystems, and wildlife worldwide are facing a panoply of environmental issues. In an effort to help experts and policymakers determine where they might focus research, a panel of 25 scientists and practitioners — including me — from around the globe held discussions in the fall to identify emerging issues that deserve increased attention.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A damaged home and flooding are seen in Creole, Louisiana, following Hurricane Laura's landfall on August 27, 2020. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Elliott Negin

What a difference an election makes. Thanks to the Biden-Harris victory in November, the next administration is poised to make a 180-degree turn to again address the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
The new variant, known as B.1.1.7, spread quickly through southeastern England in December, causing case numbers to spike and triggering stricter lockdown measures. Hollie Adams / Getty Images

By Suresh Dhaniyala and Byron Erath

A fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been found in at least 10 states, and people are wondering: How do I protect myself now?

Read More Show Less
A seagull flies in front of the Rampion offshore wind farm in the United Kingdom. Neil / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

A key part of the United States' clean energy transition has started to take shape, but you may need to squint to see it. About 2,000 wind turbines could be built far offshore, in federal waters off the Atlantic Coast, in the next 10 years. And more are expected.

Read More Show Less