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Coal Lobbyist Could Be Next EPA Deputy Administrator

President Donald Trump, who signed an executive order in January to curtail lobbying influence in government, is expected to name a coal lobbyist as the new deputy administrator to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Sources told POLITICO that the president is likely tapping Andrew Wheeler, a registered lobbyist for Murray Energy, to be the No. 2 official at the EPA under head Scott Pruitt.

Murray Energy is the largest coal mining company in the nation and has sued the Obama administration multiple times over environmental regulations.

Wheeler has worked in government before. He was an EPA staffer and a Republican staff member at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where he "worked on every major piece of environmental and energy-related legislation over the last decade, including greenhouse gas emissions legislation, the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the Clear Skies Act and the Clean Air Interstate Rule," according to his bio at Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, where Wheeler is a principal and co-leader of the firm's energy and natural resources practice.

If there's anything that indicates that he's pro-fossil fuels, Wheeler's bio lists him as the VP of the "Washington Coal Club."

Incidentally, Wheeler has also worked with many climate change deniers before. He was an advisor to Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma. The snowball-throwing senator thinks environmental regulations kill jobs and just said on Thursday that the EPA is "brainwashing" children.

Murray Energy chairman and CEO Robert Murray, an ardent Trump supporter, said in February that "4,000 scientists tell me global warming is a hoax."

Sources noted to POLITICO that the decision over Wheeler is not yet final and it could be weeks until a nominee is officially announced.

Trump's potential pick would go against his campaign promise to not hire lobbyists as a way to "drain the swamp." Of course, he pledged to revitalize the coal industry so there's that.

"We're gonna put the miners back to work," Trump said on the trail. "We're gonna put the miners back to work. We're gonna get those mines open."

The selection of Wheeler further cements the administration's hostility toward the EPA, which stands to lose about a third of its $8.1 billion budget under the president's 2018 budget proposal.

John Coequyt, the Sierra Club's Climate Policy director, has criticized the possible new hire.

"Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt would have picked a chunk of coal for this position if they could have, but Wheeler is the next most toxic option." Coequyt said.

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Sen. Inhofe: Huge EPA Budget Cuts Will Prevent Agency From 'Brainwashing Our Kids'

Snowball-throwing Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma has accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of releasing "propaganda" that is "brainwashing our kids."

Inhofe said the remarks during an interview on CNN's "New Day" as he discussed President Trump's drastic $2.8 billion cut to the EPA, or nearly a third of the agency's $8.1 billion current budget.

The Republican lawmaker said that the cuts—which would slash climate- and science-related research, grants, programs and agencies—are "good for the American people."

"We ought to make things clean," Inhofe continued. "But we ought to take all this stuff that comes out of the EPA that's brainwashing our kids, that is propaganda, things that aren't true, allegations."

Inhofe did not go into the specifics to back up his claim, but has said the "brainwashing" comment before. In a 2016 radio interview, he accused schools of brainwashing children.

"My own granddaughter came home one day and said … 'Popi, why is it you don't understand global warming?' I did some checking, and Eric, the stuff that they teach our kids nowadays, they are brainwash—you have to un-brainwash them when they get out…"

Later in the "New Day" interview, host Poppy Harlow asked Inhofe about his opinion of EPA head Scott Pruitt, who has sued the EPA more than a dozen times as Oklahoma Attorney General and stirred new controversy when he said that carbon dioxide is not the primary contributor to climate change, contrary to accepted science.

Inhofe defended Pruitt, saying the former AG was doing a "good job" trying to block "aggressive over-regulations ... that was very detrimental to our economy."

Going further, Harlow highlighted Oklahoma's alarming spate of induced-earthquakes likely caused by the injection of fracking wastewater into underground wells.

"It's the EPA that regulates that," she remarked. "Are you comfortable with [big EPA cuts] ... that may mean more of these earthquakes in your home state?"

Inhofe, a member and former chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee chairman, then incorrectly responded that wastewater disposal was the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, not the EPA.

"No, it is the EPA," Harlow shot back. To prove her point, she pulled up a graphic of mandates that states, "EPA regulates the construction, operation, permitting and closure of injection wells used to place fluids underground for storage or disposal."

Inhofe's statement after that is pretty excruciating to watch, at least in my opinion:

Inhofe is an outspoken climate change skeptic who threw a snowball across the Senate floor in Feb. 2015 to show that just because it's snowing, global warming isn't real.

"In case we have forgotten, because we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair, do you know what this is?" Inhofe said then. "It's a snowball. And it's just from outside here. So it's very, very cold out. Very unseasonable."

In an op-ed published on USA TODAY on Wednesday, Inhofe praised the Trump administration's actions to roll back environmental regulations.

"This is just scratching the surface of the work ahead for President Trump as he seeks to lift the heavy hand of regulations by the federal government on the private sector, and it should be a signal to the American people that this country is again open for business," Inhofe wrote.

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5 Ways Trump Continues His Assault on People and Planet

By Brian Palmer

1. Henhouse, meet foxes.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt renewed his science denier vows on Thursday, telling CNBC that human activity is not a "primary contributor" to the observed warming of the planet in recent decades. So it should come as no shock that he's stocking the upper levels of the EPA with fellow climate change deniers, according to a report by Coral Davenport in the New York Times.

Pruitt has started by borrowing personnel from his fellow Oklahoman, Sen. James Inhofe. To call Inhofe a climate change denier is inadequate. Inhofe is a climate change ridiculer. He is the Don Rickles of climate change, and he relishes his role as pantomime villain for climate change advocates, throwing snowballs in Congress and using the word hoax the same way Trump uses "SAD!" Pruitt's chief of staff and his chief of staff's deputy both come from Inhofe's orbit. Andrew Wheeler, Pruitt's candidate for deputy administrator at EPA, another Inhofe loyalist, has called the Paris climate agreement a "sweetheart deal" for China. It will be interesting to see how a team of science deniers will manage an agency of scientists.

If we must slash the EPA's staff and budget, can we at least keep the real experts and get rid of these guys?

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25 Notorious Bloopers in the Last 8 Years

As the curtain comes down on President Barack Obama's eight years in the White House, most Americans seemed convinced of one of two things: We're either about to Make America Great Again®, or we're about to hurtle into an uncertain epoch that I like to call the Idiocene.

But before we turn the page on this administration let's take a look back at the tall tales, regrettable pronouncements, farces and scams on climate and the environment during the Obama years. Anti-regulatory zealots led the pack, but President Obama contributed a few of his own—starting on his first full day in office:

After promising transparency, President Obama's Administration was called "one of the most secretive."

1. January 2009: The most transparent administration? Not quite.

A day after his inauguration, President Obama signed a memorandum promising: "the most transparent administration in history."

By May 2016, a different verdict came in. Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan called it "one of the most secretive." In August 2015, 52 journalism organizations, including the Society of Environmental Journalists, sent an appeal to the White House, asking for an end to restrictions on government employees' contact with reporters.

2. October 2009: Global warming stops (except it totally doesn't)

Scientists begin asking questions about why the pace of rising temperatures seems to be defying projections and slowing. Despite the emergence of serious, credible reasons for this – notably that the oceans are working overtime to absorb excess heat – climate deniers have a field day with cherry-picked data.

Even as daily, monthly, and annual warmth records continue to be broken, there's been "no global warming at all" for nearly two decades in Deniertown.

In a November 2009 press release, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce declares the "War On Coal" is underway.

3. November 2009: War is declared, a slogan is born

In a press release, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce declares the "War On Coal" is underway.

4. November 2009: Russian hack (no, the other one)

Hackers, believed to be Russian-based, steal thousands of emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit. Climate deniers spin a few poorly worded correspondences between scientists into a vast conspiracy to fake climate research.

The faux scandal upends coverage of the Copenhagen climate summit, the scientists are cleared of any wrongdoing by multiple investigations, and the hackers are never caught. But their work foreshadows the 2016 election hack.

5. January 2010: Moderate Republicans join Endangered Species List

The Citizens United decision breaches the dam on corporate cash. The high court votes 5-4 to fundamentally reshape the already-cockeyed way election campaigns are financed, offering cover to corporations and super-PACs to target undesirable candidates for defeat.

"Moderate" Republicans are virtually driven into extinction, and the few who acknowledge climate change have a change of heart.

6. March 2010: Fake fishing news sends real readers reeling

An ESPN.com outdoors columnist launches a viral hoax, suggesting that Obama is planning to outlaw all recreational fishing. Within days, chronic Obama critics—from Fox News and the Daily Caller to columnist Michelle Malkin, RedState.com and GatewayPundit.com—dutifully spread the word about "Obama's latest assault on freedom." Except not a word of it is remotely true.

7. April 2010: Obama's oil comment gaffe

18 days before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Obama says "Oil rigs today don't generally cause spills."

8. May 2010: Limbaugh gets to the bottom of Deepwater Horizon

Rush Limbaugh says "environmental wackos" staged Deepwater Horizon as a fundraising scheme.

9. May 2010: Anti-vax doctor defrocked

The UK's General Medical Council strips Dr. Andrew Wakefield of his license to practice. He authored the 1998 paper linking vaccines to autism. The paper was later retracted by The Lancet and declared "utterly false."

10. February 2011: The Maine governor doesn't understand BPA

Maine Gov. Paul LePage, possibly the only politician too dumb for the Trump Administration, declares that BPA's worst-case scenario would be women with beards.

11. September 2011: Solyndra slips, solar scandal soars

Solyndra fails. The solar company stranded investors and bailed on a half-billion dollar Energy Department loan amid evidence that Obama Administration cronies stood to benefit. But solar energy critics vault a relatively minor scandal into a renewables Benghazi – overlooking the generally successful record of DOE's startup loans as well as the much larger handouts given to fossil fuel companies.

12. September 2011: The Donald picks a wind fight. Fore!

Donald Trump sends the first of 16 angry, obsessive letters or emails to Scotland's First Minister about the proposed windfarm near his golf resort. Sad!!

13 and 14. May 2012: Heartless Heartland campaign

An electronic billboard on a Chicago freeway heralds the start of a campaign by the Heartland Institute to brand climate-change advocates as cold-blooded serial killers. The first features the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. It draws such a backlash that the billboards featuring climate advocates Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden (really) never get a full airing. Heartland is further tarnished by revelations that it solicited fossil fuel money to pursue its climate denial agenda.

Lamar Smith becomes Chair of House Science Committee, and eventually the Torquemada-in-Chief of government climate scientists. Rep. Smith's committee room becomes an inquisition chamber for government climate scientists and their agency bosses.

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Listen to Sen. Inhofe's Response to His Granddaughter Asking Him: 'Why Is It You Don't Understand Global Warming?'

By Farron Cousins

Republican Sen. James Inhofe might be one of the most famous and most outspoken opponents of science in the U.S. and, sadly, that's a reputation that he's proud to have.

When snowstorms descended upon Washington, DC, Sen. Inhofe used a snowball thrown onto the floor of the Senate as incontrovertible proof that global warming was a hoax. After all, if the planet is heating up, how can snow still exist?

As wacky as the snowball incident was, that episode looks tame in comparison to his latest tirade about global warming.

Inhofe, who serves as the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, recently told conservative radio host Eric Metaxas that schools were "brainwashing" children about climate change.

Here is the line that shows Inhofe's extreme views:

"My own granddaughter came home one day and said … 'Popi, why is it you don't understand global warming?' I did some checking, and Eric, the stuff that they teach our kids nowadays, they are brainwash—you have to un-brainwash them when they get out…"

Listen here:

This is an alarming statement from a sitting U.S. senator. The man who is in charge of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee honestly believes that schools are brainwashing children about the dangers of climate change. And if schools are brainwashing children, the logic would dictate that global leaders, scientists and military experts are brainwashing the schools about the real dangers of climate change.

Here are a few hard and fast facts that Sen. Inhofe refuses to accept, possibly because they are frightening and he doesn't have the capacity to comprehend them:

This list could go on forever, but it still wouldn't be enough to convince Inhofe that things are getting increasingly bad.

The only person that has been brainwashed in this scenario is Sen. Jim Inhofe by way of the $105,000 he's gotten from Koch Industries (his single largest campaign contributor throughout his career), which is part of the larger sum of $1.8 million that he's received from the oil and gas industries since 1989, according to OpenSecrets. That money seems to have interfered with Inhofe's rational thinking capabilities, effectively turning him into the lapdog of fossil fuel companies.

Here is the silver lining to this story. While 81-year-old James Inhofe is in his twilight years, his little granddaughter that he mentioned in the story is the future. She will grow up to understand and experience the impacts of climate change and will know that world leaders need to act.

That is where the hope lies right now—in the future—because we've seen too much evidence to show we can't rely on our current crop of elected officials to take climate change seriously.

This article was reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

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