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Senate confirms controversial appointee to head US environmental regulator

01 March 2019

On February 28 the US Senate confirmed President Donald Trump’s candidate to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency, the nation’s top environmental regulator. Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, has been the EPA’s Acting Administrator since July 2018 when former Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned after widespread criticism over ethical issues.

Andrew Wheeler - Image: EPA
Andrew Wheeler - Image: EPA

During his confirmation hearing in January, Wheeler said he did not believe climate change was a major crisis - a stance that resonates with Trump’s scepticism but which clashes with the scientific consensus that global warming will have devastating consequences if not addressed urgently.

Oil and coal industry organisations greeted Wheeler’s confirmation positively. Michelle Bloodworth, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a coal industry lobby group, said Wheeler was a “thoughtful leader who understands the need for sensible environmental policies.”

However, Democrats and conservation groups criticised the appointment. “Throughout his career, Andrew Wheeler has shown a clear disregard for the EPA’s mission to protect the public and environment,” said Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein from California, who voted against him.

While running the EPA as Acting Administrator, Wheeler oversaw the weakening of Obama-era rules limiting carbon and mercury emissions from power plants and standards on carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks. He has also advanced an initiative to lift a summertime ban on higher ethanol blends of gasoline that was enacted to curb smog.


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