Senate Confirms Former Coal Lobbyist Wheeler to Head EPA

Senate Confirms Former Coal Lobbyist Wheeler to Head EPA

Senate Confirms Former Coal Lobbyist Wheeler to Head EPA

The U.S. Senate confirmed a new Environmental Protection Agency administrator Thursday, with New Hampshire's two senators among those voting "no".

Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a 54-year-old Washington insider with years of experience working as a congressional staffer, was nominated by Trump in January to permanently replace Scott Pruitt, who resigned in July after widespread criticism over his spending and conduct in office.

But most Republicans, including Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming, said Wheeler had eased the burden on industry without undermining key environmental protections.

Elizabeth Gore, senior vice president for political affairs at the advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund, said in an email that senators who cast their vote on Wheeler knew exactly what sort of choice they faced.

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Business interests like oil and coal, eager to see reduced regulation, were quick to hail Wheeler's confirmation while Democrats and conservation groups are anxious that environmental rollbacks under the Trump administration are going too far.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, had voted to confirm Wheeler as EPA deputy administrator past year.

Senate transportation funding leader, Maine Republican Susan Collins, joined Democrats in opposition. Collins added that her state of ME is at the receiving end of pollution generated by coal-fired power plants in other states.

Indiana Senator Todd Young said, "Mr. Wheeler has demonstrated an ability to find reasonable solutions to hard environmental issues".

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Wheeler's record-breaking reign as acting administrator was marked by an unprecedented assault on greenhouse gas regulations amid historic wildfires and hurricanes that scientists say offer a preview of the rapidly warming world to come. "RFA looks forward to continuing to work with him to implement a strong Renewable Fuel Standard, make year-around E15 a reality and to fix the damage done as a result of the unprecedented number of small refiner waivers granted by his predecessor", said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. Weeks later, he proposed gutting a landmark Obama-era power plant regulation, allowing, by the EPA's own calculus, enough pollution to cause an additional 1,400 premature deaths per year. As a result, many Americans born after the mid-1970s have never experienced average temperatures unaffected by human-caused emissions.

The EPA has announced plans to place legal limits on the chemicals but has not yet done so.

Wheeler was not making "meaningful progress" on clean water standards either, Democrat Joe Manchin said, citing the agency's failure to limit the amount of highly toxic chemicals contaminating drinking water in West Virginia and around the country.

While Wheeler doesn't outright deny climate change, he has also downplayed its urgency during his time in the Trump administration. "But it's only a matter of time before his dirty dealings land him in the same trash heap as his predecessor".

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