Quantcast
Politics

EPA Shakeup: Wheeler Gives First Address as Top Pruitt Aides Step Down

Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Andrew Wheeler addressed his new employees for the first time Wednesday, setting the tone and agenda for his leadership, Pacific Standard reported.


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.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Energy
Halliburton getting ready to frack in the Bakken formation, which underlies North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Joshua Doubek / CC BY-SA 3.0

Zinke’s Real Estate Deal With Halliburton Chair to Be Investigated

Ousted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt isn't the only polluter-friendly Trump appointee with sketchy ethics.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Emilie Chen / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Against All Odds, Mountain Gorilla Numbers Are on the Rise

By Jason Bittel

The news coming out of East Africa's Virunga Mountains these days would have made the late (and legendary) conservationist Dian Fossey very happy. According to the most recent census, the mountain gorillas introduced to the world in Gorillas in the Mist, Fossey's book and the film about her work, have grown their ranks from 480 animals in 2010 to 604 as of June 2016. Add another couple hundred apes living in scattered habitats to the south, and their population as a whole totals more than 1,000. Believe it or not, this makes the mountain gorilla subspecies the only great apes known to be increasing in number.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
"From 1992 to 2016, heat killed 783 workers in the U.S. and seriously injured nearly 70,000, according to a new report on heat risks." InsideClimateNews / USDA

Protect Workers From Extreme Heat, Advocates Urge OSHA

A broad coalition of worker advocacy, public health and environmental groups on Tuesday called on the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to create a workplace standard for heat stress.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Tjeerd Wiersma from Amsterdam, The Netherlands / CC BY 2.0

How Coca-Cola and Climate Change Created a Public Health Crisis in a Mexican Town

A lack of drinking water and a surplus of Coca-Cola are causing a public health crisis in the Mexican town of San Cristóbal de las Casas, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Some neighborhoods in the town only get running water a few times a week, so residents turn to soda, drinking more than half a gallon a day on average.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals
Plastic trash isn't safe for kids, whether human or bear. Kevin Morgans Wildlife Photography

Even Polar Bear Cubs Can’t Escape Plastic Pollution

By Allison Guy

Plastic bags are often stamped with an all-caps warning: This bag is not a toy. Unfortunately, polar bear moms don't have much control over their kids' playthings.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights
Sea level rise is a natural consequence of the warming of our planet. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

We Can’t Hide From Global Warming’s Consequences

Over the past few months, heat records have broken worldwide.

In early July, the temperature in Ouargla, Algeria, reached 51.3°C (124.34°F), the highest ever recorded in Africa! Temperatures in the eastern and southwestern U.S. and southeastern Canada have also hit record highs. In Montreal, people sweltered under temperatures of 36.6°C (97.88°F), the highest ever recorded there, as well as record-breaking extreme midnight heat and humidity, an unpleasant experience shared by people in Ottawa. Dozens of people have died from heat-related causes in Quebec alone.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health
Stacey_newman / Getty Images

More Than a Third of Schools Tested Have ‘Elevated Levels’ of Lead in Drinking Water

A troubling new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that more than a third of the nation's schools that tested their water for lead found "elevated levels" of the neurotoxin. But despite heightened concern in recent years about lead in drinking water, more than 40 percent of schools surveyed conducted no lead testing in 2016.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Bill Pugliano / Stringer / Getty Images

Can Elon Musk Fix Flint’s Water?

By Fiona E. McNeill

The Michigan community of Flint has become a byword for lead poisoning. Elon Musk recently entered the fray. He tweeted a promise to pay to fix the water in any house in Flint that had water contamination above acceptable levels set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!