Environment

A climate change skeptic and former coal lobbyist is now in charge of the EPA

After a 52-47 vote this Thursday, Andrew Wheeler will now be the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). His confirmation comes seven months after the former administrator, Scott Pruitt, resigned. In the interim, Wheeler served as acting administrator.

The only Republican to vote against Wheeler was Susan Collins, who said that while she believes Wheeler “acts in accordance with ethical standards,” she thinks “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.”

As The New York Times points out, Republicans are “excited” about Wheeler’s willingness to roll back environmental regulations and promote the continued expansion of the coal industry and are “looking to him to cement Mr. Trump’s legacy as a warrior against what they see as regulatory overreach.”

Mr. Wheeler has moved to dramatically weaken two of former President Obama’s signature climate change initiatives, cutting emissions from power plants and from automobiles, while also proposing to make new coal-fired power plants easier to approve.

He also has also sought to unwind the legal justification for curbing toxic mercury emissions from power plants, limit federal protection of small waterways, and dismissed a panel of independent scientific advisers.

Speaking after the vote, Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook said Wheeler’s confirmation is a “sad day for public health and the EPA, but mission accomplished for the fossil fuel and chemical industries.”

“They have longed for one of their own to call the shots at the agency, and now they finally have their man in Andrew Wheeler,” he added.

Earlier this month, Wheeler downplayed last year’s alarming federal government report on climate change writing it off as “worst case scenario.”

“Some of the conclusions were based on the worst-case scenario. … And so, I’m trying to take the report as a whole. I’ve had briefings by my career staff, here at the agency, which I depend upon,” Wheeler told ABC News.

Featured image via screen grab/PBS Newshour

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