March 24, 2019

Senate Confirms Former Coal Lobbyist Wheeler to Head EPA

03 March 2019, 03:55 | Edward Lowe

Andrew Wheeler

Senate confirms former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as EPA administrator

Senators voted 52-47 to confirm Wheeler, who was nominated by President Donald Trump after former administrator Scott Pruitt resigned past year amid a series of ethics allegations.

Earthjustice noted that during his confirmation hearings, Wheeler totally dismissed the significance of climate change and shied away from committing to any significant action to protect children and families from harmful contaminants.

"During his time as acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler has been seen as a thoughtful leader who understands the need for sensible environmental policies", said Michelle Bloodworth, the group's president and CEO.

Wheeler has been running the EPA since his predecessor Scott Pruitt resigned in July under a cloud of ethics controversies.

Many U.S. utilities had already planned adjustments to their coal-burning generators to comply with the tighter mercury standards, and the utilities are anxious that proposals for looser rules could lead to regulatory uncertainty. He cited the agency's failure to limit the amount of highly toxic chemicals contaminating drinking water in West Virginia and around the country.

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Andrew Wheeler has been confirmed as the nation's 15th administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He capped off the month by announcing plans to relax a rule restricting how much mercury and other unsafe pollutants coal-fired plants can release into the air. "It ought to tell us a lot that the Republicans put up a coal lobbyist to represent the people of America, leading the Environmental Protection Agency", said Sen.

Environmental groups reacted to Thursday's confirmation much as they did when Wheeler took the reins as deputy administrator.

Wheeler's EPA has continued efforts as well to scale back Obama-era constraints on coal-fired power plants, and with Wheeler at the helm the agency proposed a rollback of rules that regulate leaks of methane from oil and gas facilities.

And the list of regulations Wheeler has overseen in his short tenure as the acting administrator is ever growing.

Industry officials credited Wheeler as helping spur the economy by restraining what they view as federal overreach.

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"Time and time again Mr. Wheeler has proven that his environmental policies are nearly as destructive and extreme has his predecessors'", he said.

Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat, who also voted a year ago to confirm Wheeler as EPA deputy, voted against him in Wednesday's procedural vote.

"Unlike with some nominees, we do not have to speculate about what Mr. Wheeler will do in office", Gore said. Last week, he broke off negotiations with California over a national vehicle fuel economy standard, setting the administration up for a lengthy legal fight with the Golden State, which is allowed under the Clean Air Act to set its own pollution limits.

All five senators had met with Wheeler earlier in February over the issue and voted to approve Wheeler on Thursday.

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