Senate confirms ex-coal lobbyist to lead U.S

Senate confirms former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as EPA administrator

Andrew Wheeler

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 a year ago.

While Wheeler is viewed as an improvement over scandal-ridden Pruitt, critics say he will continue the former administrator's deregulation agenda. "I believe that Mr. Wheeler, unlike (former EPA administrator) Scott Pruitt, understands the mission of the EPA and acts in accordance with ethical standards; however, the policies he has supported as Acting Administrator are not in the best interest of our environment and public health, particularly given the threat of climate change to our nation". The next day, David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist and No. 2 at the Department of the Interior, became acting secretary when Ryan Zinke resigned amid mounting ethics investigations.

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

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

Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Andrew Wheeler speaks during an event hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 17, 2018.

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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. Collins added that her state of ME is at the receiving end of pollution generated by coal-fired power plants in other states.

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.

ACE calls on Wheeler to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard as the law of the land. As a result, many Americans born after the mid-1970s have never experienced average temperatures unaffected by human-caused emissions.

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. He cited the agency's failure to limit the amount of highly toxic chemicals contaminating drinking water in West Virginia and around the country. He proposed loosening requirements that coal-fired power plants reduce carbon dioxide emissions. As acting administrator of EPA, he has prioritized common-sense policies that protect our air and water, while allowing our economy to grow. They have longed for one of their own calling the shots at the agency, and now they finally have their man in Andrew Wheeler. But opposed Wheeler's confirmation this time, he said, in light of his push to freeze vehicle fuel efficiency standards and to revisit the cost-benefit analysis the agency used to impose limits on mercury pollution that power companies have already achieved.

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