In the six months since he stepped in to oversee the Environmental Protection Agency following Scott Pruitt’s resignation last summer, Andrew Wheeler has gutted fuel efficiency standards, rolled back carbon emissions rules for coal plants, and moved to allow more mercury emissions — and President Donald Trump made his approval known Wednesday as he nominated Wheeler to officially head the agency.
Wheeler has served as acting EPA administrator since July, having served as Pruitt’s second-in-command. Before his career in the Trump administration, he was a lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry and an aide for vehement climate denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) — resumé items whose influence has been apparent in his actions as acting administrator and will likely to continue to sway his decision-making if he’s confirmed.
— On Capitol Hill (@EarthjusticeDC) January 9, 2019
“The only thing Wheeler is going to protect at the EPA is the profits of polluters,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), in a statement. “I’m sure corporate board rooms will celebrate this nomination. But for anyone who drinks water, breathes air, or cares about wildlife, this will be nothing but awful.”
Like Pruitt before him — and a number of other Trump administration officials — Wheeler has made clear his intent to undermine his agency’s stated mission, instead doing everything in his power to make it easier for his former industry to harm the American public.
“Even as acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler has proven he remains an ally of the coal and oil barons that once paid him, and not the American people whose health he should be protecting,” said Ana Unruh Cohen of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “He’s worked to worsen the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the heat we feel, flouting the mission of the EPA at every opportunity.”
Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) argued that Wheeler’s official takeover of the EPA makes the agency even more dangerous than it was during Pruitt’s tenure — one marred by scandals regarding his spending, secrecy, and misconduct.
“Scott Pruitt was an amateur at the Washington game, prone to nonstop political gaffes and pratfalls that eventually were too embarrassing even for Donald Trump,” said Cook. “Andrew Wheeler is a deregulation pro: much more sophisticated, experienced, and therefore more dangerous to the environment and human health.”
“Wheeler actually knows how to turn the EPA over to the industries it regulates,” he continued. “Wheeler has not just failed to reverse the disastrous course the agency is on courtesy of Scott Pruitt, he’s actually doubling down on behalf of polluters. His horrendous record shows that he simply lacks the commitment to protect public health and the environment required by a nominee to run the EPA.”