Andrew Wheeler Confirmed to Lead EPA
The United States Senate confirmed Andrew Wheeler to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last Thursday, February 28. A formal coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler has rolled back environmental regulation as the Acting Administrator of the EPA.
The Senate confirmed Wheeler to the position of Administrator with a 52-47 vote, divided mostly along party lines. Democrats pointed out how Wheeler used his time in the EPA to roll back environmental regulations during the confirmation hearings. When it came to a vote, Senator Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican to vote against Mr. Wheeler.
During the hearings, when asked by Senator Bernie Sanders about climate change, Wheeler responded, "I would not call it the greatest crisis. I consider it a huge issue that has to be addressed globally." Wheeler put his concern for climate change at a “eight or nine” out of ten.
Wheeler took over the EPA as Acting Administrator after Scott Pruitt resigned amid a string of scandals last July. There were widespread allegations that Pruitt was overspending EPA money for a luxurious lifestyle, frequently flying first class and getting a telephone booth built in his office. Pruitt was also wrapped up in ethical scandals, after watchdog organizations alleged that he had meetings with aides to hide controversial meetings or calls with industry representatives from the public.
Although Wheeler is seen as less extreme than his predecessor, he has largely followed Pruitt’s efforts to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations. Since Pruitt’s resignation, Wheeler has replaced the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to limit emissions from coal power plants, with a weaker set of rules.
However, Wheeler also announced plans that gathered support from democrats, including initiatives aimed at reducing lead exposure and providing oversight to PFAS chemicals which pose health risks to millions of Americans. However, some criticize these initiatives for doing too little, too late. Further, the EPA hasn’t taken any concrete actions on these proposals yet.