This Coal Lobbyist Could Head the EPA, and He May Be Worse Than Pruitt
By Keith Gaby
Given the tenuous hold Scott Pruitt has on his job leading the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), attention has now turned to the pending nomination of coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to become the embattled agency's deputy administrator.
In the event Pruitt were forced from office by the avalanche of scandals swirling around him, Wheeler—if confirmed as the agency's number two—would suddenly be running the EPA.
His tenure as acting administrator could be lengthy, too, given the closely divided Senate and the controversial policies of the Trump administration in this area.
And things are moving fast: Wheeler's nomination is scheduled to come before the Senate this week. It is critically important that Americans get educated on his career to date.
Wheeler spent years as an energy industry lobbyist.
Here's the bottom line: Andrew Wheeler running the EPA would go far beyond having an administrator overly influenced by lobbyists. If he's confirmed, the head of the EPA would, in fact, be an energy industry lobbyist.
On Wheeler's client list was Murray Energy, one of the worst corporate citizens in America.
Working for a big lobbying firm, Faegre Baker Daniels, Wheeler lobbied on behalf of energy companies for nearly a decade, including Murray. He earned more than $3 million in income for his firm from the large coal mining company.
His coal mining client paid millions in fines.
Since Wheeler began lobbying for Murray Energy, the company has paid millions in fines and penalties for contaminating waterways in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania with coal slurry and discharge.
In 2010, Murray Energy contaminated the Captina Creek in Ohio for the fourth time since 2000, with coal slurry. According to the Columbus Dispatch, coal slurry from Murray Energy spilled into the creek in 2000, 2005 and 2008.
In 2015, federal regulators accused Murray Energy of attempting to silence whistleblowers and said that "Murray Energy chided 3,500 workers for making too many confidential safety complaints to regulators and—at one of the mines—threatened to retaliate by closing down operations."
As Wheeler's client, Murray Energy created an "action plan" for the EPA that called for overturning rules limiting mercury pollution, carbon pollution and air pollution that crosses state lines. It also called for cutting the EPA "at least in half."
Insider knowledge could make him dangerous.
Wheeler's lobbying list of clients regulated by the EPA is extensive. It also includes corporate names such as Bear Head LNG Corporation, Celanese Corporation, Domestic Fuel Solutions Group, ICOR International and the Nuclear Energy Institute.
He's devoted his career to defending the interests of the nation's largest polluters, as a lobbyist and in jobs on Capitol Hill. As deputy administrator, Wheeler would likely use his bureaucratic knowledge to continue to work for the goals of his past clients—with tragic results for our air, water, kids and heath.
That could make him even more dangerous than Scott Pruitt.
EPA Moves to Overhaul Obama-Era Coal Ash Disposal Rule https://t.co/FnWY1fuRMj @wwwfoecouk @GreenpeaceUK— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1520071507.0
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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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