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.
'Kicking Ass for Her Generation': Applause for 16-Year-Old Greta Thunberg as EU Chief Pledges $1 Trillion to Curb Climate Threat
By Julia Conley
Sixteen-year-old climate action leader Greta Thunberg stood alongside European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker Thursday in Brussels as he indicated—after weeks of climate strikes around the world inspired by the Swedish teenager—that the European Union has heard the demands of young people and pledged more than $1 trillion over the next seven years to address the crisis of a rapidly heating planet.
In the financial period beginning in 2021, Juncker said, the EU will devote a quarter of its budget to solving the crisis.
‘Plastic Is Lethal’: Groundbreaking Report Reveals Health Risks at Every Stage in Plastics Life Cycle
With eight million metric tons of plastic entering the world's oceans every year, there is growing concern about the proliferation of plastics in the environment. Despite this, surprisingly little is known about the full impact of plastic pollution on human health.
But a first-of-its-kind study released Tuesday sets out to change that. The study, Plastic & Health: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet, is especially groundbreaking because it looks at the health impacts of every stage in the life cycle of plastics, from the extraction of the fossil fuels that make them to their permanence in the environment. While previous studies have focused on particular products, manufacturing processes or moments in the creation and use of plastics, this study shows that plastics pose serious health risks at every stage in their production, use and disposal.
Air pollution within the home causes 3.8 million deaths a year, according to the World Health Organization. A recent University of Colorado in Boulder study reported by The Guardian found that cooking a full Thanksgiving meal could raise levels of particulate matter 2.5 in the house higher than the levels averaged in New Delhi, the world's sixth most polluted city.
But soon, you will be able to shop for a solution in the same place you buy your budget roasting pans. IKEA is working on a specially-designed, air-purifying curtain called the GUNRID.
A rare species of giant tortoise, feared extinct for more than 100 years, was sighted on the Galápagos island of Fernandina Sunday, the Ecuadorian government announced.