The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
EPA Shakeup: Wheeler Gives First Address as Top Pruitt Aides Step Down
Wheeler broke with ex-EPA head Scott Pruitt in style, but not in substance, vowing to be more transparent and listen to career staffers while also upholding President Donald Trump's deregulatory agenda, The Washington Post reported.
"What I heard was remarkably more fluent in the agency's own rhetoric and sense of mission than Pruitt's first [address]," Stony Brook University environmental law historian Christopher Sellers told Pacific Standard in an email.
However, the two concrete policy proposals Wheeler outlined both focused on the needs of industry: he wanted the EPA to decide on all permits within six months and to speed up the pace at which actions brought against polluters are completed.
Wheeler's address, at which career staffers sat front and center, came the day after The Washington Post reported that several of Pruitt's top aides were leaving the EPA.
They included Pruitt's spokesperson Jahan Wilcox who often clashed with the press, deputy White House liaison Hayley Ford and Lincoln Ferguson, who also worked for Pruitt in Oklahoma and often traveled with him.
Wheeler, in his speech, pledged to support the employees who remained.
"My instinct will be to defend your work, and I will seek the facts from you before reaching conclusions," he said, according to The Washington Post.
Wheeler also promised to be more transparent, and has made some steps in that direction, including downsizing Pruitt's round-the-clock security team, reopening the administrator's office to staff and keeping a current online calendar, according to The Washington Post.
Rhetorically, he acknowledged the agency's mission of "protecting human health and the environment" and acknowledged the fact that poorer and minority communities often suffer more from polluting facilities, Pacific Standard reported.
However, The Washington Post pointed out that he did not once mention climate change.
He also praised the work the agency had done under Pruitt, though he did not mention him by name, and said he would continue in that direction.
"We're also restoring the rule of law, reigning in federal regulatory overreach, and refocusing EPA on its core responsibilities," Wheeler said, according to Pacific Standard. "As a result, the economy is booming and economic optimism is surging."
EPA employees had mixed reactions to his speech.
Acting president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council No. 238 Denise D. Morrison told The Washington Post the speech was "simply a superficial attempt to plug the leaks and quell the dissent. A successful coal lobbyist doesn't change his stripes. He will continue to champion deregulation and permit big polluters to evade compliance altogether."
But EPA biologist Tamue Gibson said she was glad Wheeler had worked as a government staffer himself and was hopeful about his leadership.
"At least he knows about how America needs us," she told The Washington Post. "At least he knows people around the world count on us."
Environmental groups, meanwhile, were skeptical of Wheeler's plans to speed up the permitting and pollution action processes."There should be a timely and quick resolution of cases, but it has to be done right. It shouldn't be rushed," Environmental Integrity Project spokesperson Tom Pelton told Pacific Standard.
- How Andrew Wheeler, the New Acting E.P.A. Chief, Differs From ... ›
- Who Is Andrew Wheeler? Key Details On Trump's Pick To Replace ... ›
- The Next Head of Trump's EPA | The New Republic ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.