Senate confirms acting EPA chief for permanent role

03 March, 2019, 15:55 | Author: Sherry Houston
  • Andrew Wheeler addresses staff at EPA headquarters

The Senate has approved Andrew Wheeler as the Head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sen. Collins says Andrew Wheeler's policy views aren't in the best interest of public health.

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

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.

The following may be attributed to American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall: "Farm Bureau welcomes the Senate's confirmation of Andrew Wheeler as EPA administrator".

"As acting administrator of EPA, (Wheeler) has prioritized commonsense policies that protect our air and water, while allowing our economy to grow", said Senate Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming following the 52-47 vote. Collins added that her state of ME is at the receiving end of pollution generated by coal-fired power plants in other states.

Environmental groups said that although Wheeler's behavior is "less cartoonish" than Pruitt, he supports the same policies.

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Democrats used the vote as an opportunity to call for greater action on climate change, with more than six senators speaking to a almost empty chamber about why the federal government should press for steeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

In August, Wheeler unveiled a proposal weakening fuel economy standards for new vehicles in a move seen as a "giant giveaway" to oil companies even as electric automobile technology made huge leaps forward.

The planet has already warmed more than 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels.

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.

In response, Wheeler, despite admitting he hadn't read the multiagency report, dismissed its findings and threatened to intervene in the drafting of the next National Climate Assessment.

"Through our deregulatory actions, the Trump administration has proven that burdensome federal regulations are not necessary to drive environmental progress", Wheeler said at the time. He proposed loosening requirements that coal-fired power plants reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

That will make legal challenges harder, Hartl said, because courts show deference to agencies and give them discretion to regulate on a reasoned basis. Mitch McConnell, who has received over $2 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry and thousands from coal interests throughout his legislative career, joined with the majority voting in favor of Wheeler's confirmation. "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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