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EPA Policy: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

July 13, 2018

Climate Change Weekly #291

Administrator Scott Pruitt's resignation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) marked the end of a productive but tumultuous time at the agency, but when it comes to policy, the new acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, is likely to stay the course.

However history judges Pruitt’s tenure at EPA, critics and supporters of Pruitt can agree EPA under Pruitt began a fundamental transformation of its operations. Ending sue-and-settle agreements; reshaping EPA’s science advisory committees to better reflect diversity of geography, experience, and points of view; reducing the chance of graft by halting those who make EPA research funding decisions from also receiving funding for their research; beginning to roll back myriad regulatory actions, including the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, the massive increase in the Corporate Fuel Economy Standard (CAFE), and various energy efficiency mandates for appliances, EPA began changing the way it did business.

Based on the media coverage of EPA’s changing of the guard, critics and supporters of President Donald Trump’s energy and environment agenda alike agree substantively nothing much will change with Wheeler’s ascension to head the agency. In the immortal words of The Who, “Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss.”

Trump expressed confidence in Wheeler’s ability to keep the agency carrying out his agenda, tweeting on July 5, “I have no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda. We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright!”

Sadly, but entirely predictably, the environmental left took Wheeler’s rise as another opportunity to declare the end of the world. A Huffington Post headline succinctly stated radical environmentalists’ point of view: “Scott Pruitt’s Replacement Is Even Worse.” The article quotes Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, saying, “This is like rearranging deck chairs on the environmental Titanic.”

The left’s histrionic response to Wheeler taking over at EPA is a mirror image of its response to Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court: regardless of qualifications, anyone who helms EPA under Trump will be tarred by the left as a friend of polluters and destroyer of environmental policies that are the only thing keeping our children from dying of air and water pollution and climate disaster.

Former Congressman Tim Huelskamp, Ph.D., president of The Heartland Institute, said Wheeler will be effective in accomplishing EPA’s mission despite environmentalists’ attacks.

“With his resume of commitment to the cause of commonsense policymaking, Andrew Wheeler is an excellent choice to run the EPA, and we are excited to work with him,” said Huelskamp. “Just like the extremist Left had it out for Scott Pruitt before he was even sworn in, they have targeted Wheeler as well. However, we doubt these personal attacks will deter Wheeler from his noble goal to focus the EPA on its core mission of helping to keep America’s air, land, and water clean of pollution.”

Environmentalists fear Wheeler for the same reason supporters of Trump’s regulatory reform efforts welcome him: he is expected to be much more effective than Pruitt at rolling back regulations imposed under previous administrations that go beyond what federal law allows and ultimately harm American businesses and workers.

Why more effective? Because of Wheeler’s experience and style. Wheeler has a great deal of experience working with EPA, both within and outside of the agency. Wheeler won awards for his work at the agency between 1991 and 1995. Subsequently, Wheeler worked alternately as majority staff director, minority staff director, and chief counsel at the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, with oversight responsibility for EPA. As a result, Wheeler, unlike Pruitt, knows intimately which levers to push within the agency and in Congress to succeed at reining in EPA overreach, which is vital because Wheeler has a lot left to accomplish.

Along with myriad new regulatory reviews and actions EPA is expected to undertake under legislative or court deadlines, EPA is still working on replacements for CPP, WOTUS, and CAFE rules; to improve the transparency and public accessibility of the science used to guide agency decisions and rules; and to establish new nationwide pollution limits for drinking water and groundwater — all efforts started under Pruitt.

In public statements, supporters and detractors alike have indicated Wheeler could serve as a more disciplined, less scandal-prone replacement for Pruitt.

“We have full confidence in Andrew both from his past experience and the job he has done at EPA,” Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the Washington Examiner. “We think he will carry on the Trump reform agenda in a really competent way. He is on board with all the major reform efforts.”

“For the top people at the EPA, the various Pruitt accusations have been a real challenge and a distraction,” Ebell continued. “Once Pruitt is gone, and Andrew is in charge, people will get back to doing their jobs every day, rather than accusations.”

“With Andy Wheeler stepping in to replace Pruitt, I think we’ll see a change in style but not in substance,” Jeff Holmstead, a former deputy administrator of the EPA in the George W. Bush administration, told the Washington Examiner. “Andy probably is the ideal person to lead EPA at this point.

“Pruitt got a lot of regulatory reforms started, but he’s never worked at a regulatory agency and didn’t fully understand the administrative process and what it would take to get them finalized. Andy certainly does,” Holmstead said. “He’s worked on these issues for years and may actually be more effective than Pruitt when it comes to carrying out the reforms that Pruitt started.”

Clean Air Watch’s O’Donnell, a fierce critic of Wheeler, agrees his personality may make Wheeler more effective.

“This is a guy who shares all the ideology of Pruitt, except his style is totally different,” Huffington Post quotes O’Donnell as saying. “He’s not a flamboyant, backslapping politician with a taste for scandal.”

We can’t yet be certain what Wheeler’s tenure might mean for EPA’s climate policy. Driven by the endangerment finding, EPA has begun the process of drafting a replacement for CPP. Wheeler’s past statements give hope this effort won’t continue. In March of 2010, while working for the Senate, Wheeler “accused the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of blurring ‘the lines between science and advocacy’ and functioning ‘more as a political body than a scientific body,’ suggesting EPA could ‘reconsider its endangerment finding without almost exclusively relying upon the IPCC,’” the Huffington Post notes.

Under the intense spotlight trained on any Trump administration official, it’s hard to do anything under the radar, but with his knowledge of the inner workings of EPA’s regulatory processes and his low-key, non-confrontational style, if anyone can successfully rescind the endangerment finding and save the American people from unnecessarily high energy prices and shortages, it may just be Andrew Wheeler.

Buona fortuna, Mr. Wheeler!

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: ABC News; Washington Examiner; Huffington Post; The Heartland Institute


IN THIS ISSUE …

Dutch physicist supports climate realismOntario scraps climate ‘slush fund’Hansen’s climate predictions fail reality test


DUTCH PHYSICIST SUPPORTS CLIMATE REALISM

A new study by physicist Guus Berkhout, published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, shows it is wrong to attribute the majority of recent climate change to human greenhouse gas emissions, based on our current limited scientific understanding of the climate. The study notes three of the four factors contributing to climate change are entirely natural, yet relatively little research is being done into them.

Berkhout writes, “Current climate policies are based on the conviction that ‘the science is settled’ and “mankind is the principal cause of global warming.” Berkhout says this is untrue, writing, the “four principal causes of climate change [are]: changes in the solar radiation and cosmic rays that reach the Earth’s atmosphere; changes in the Earth’s orbit and the orientation of the Earth’s axis; changes in volcanism and heat convection from the hot inner Earth; and changes in the emission of climate-affecting gases, produced both by Mother Nature and by mankind.”

 

Berkhout finds computer model projections of climate change are not credible and concludes a better understanding of the causes and consequences of current climate change requires the use of reliable, publicly available, transparent databases, measurements, and models and that analysts and advocates “stop making predictions with the oversimplified and poorly validated” computer models used today.

SOURCE: Global Warming Policy Foundation


ONTARIO SCRAPS CLIMATE ‘SLUSH FUND’

Keeping a campaign promise, Ontario’s newly elected Premier Doug Ford canceled the carbon dioxide cap-and-trade scheme instituted by former premier Kathleen Wynne. Despite carrying an $8 billion price tag for 2017–2020, the cap-and-trade scheme would have no effect on climate change, Ford said.

“Every cent from the cap-and-trade slush fund is money that has been taken out of the pockets of Ontario families and businesses,” Ford said in a written statement. “We believe that this money belongs back in the pockets of people. Cancelling the cap-and-trade carbon tax will result in lower prices at the gas pump, on your home heating bills and on virtually every other product you buy.”

Ford’s decision to cancel Ontario’s cap-and-trade program is a direct challenge to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate policies. Trudeau has threatened to impose a federal carbon tax on Ontario to counteract Ford’s action, a move Ford said he would sue in court to block.

In fighting Trudeau, Ford is joining Saskatchewan’s government. Former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall rejected the national government’s climate policies from the outset, refusing to impose a carbon tax on the province, forcing Trudeau’s government to go to court in an effort to do so. Wall retired in 2017, and his successor, Scott Moe, has continued resisting Trudeau’s climate policies, saying in a recent speech, “The carbon tax plan is wrong for our province. As an economic plan, it’s a total disaster.”

SOURCES: Toronto Sun; Toronto Sun


HANSEN’S CLIMATE PREDICTIONS FAIL REALITY TEST

The year 1988 marked the beginning of the global warming scare, when NASA’s James Hansen, in testimony at a U.S. Senate Committee hearing (and in a subsequent article in the Journal of Geophysical Research), first publicly claimed human greenhouse gas emissions were causing dangerous global warming. Hansen and associated researchers made specific projections about how much global temperatures would increase if humans did not stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Thirty years later, an analysis of Hansen, et al.’s projections by climate researchers Ross McKitrick and John Christy shows Hansen and his team grossly overstated the amount of warming the earth has experienced even as greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise.

Hansen produced three warming scenarios for the period from 1982 to 2017 (in degrees Celsius per decade): Scenario A: 0.34 +/- 0.08, Scenario B: 0.29 +/- 0.06, and Scenario C: 0.18 +/- 0.11. When compared to NASA’s GISTEMP record (the Goddard Institute of Space Studies, or GISS, record), and the University of Alabama at Huntsville/RSS mean MSU series from weather satellites for the lower troposphere, only Scenario C comes close to actually matching the actual temperature rise the earth has experienced since Hansen’s testimony, which GISTEMP records as 0.19 +/- 0.04 C/decade and MSU as 0.17 +/- 0.05 C/decade. Scenario A projected approximately double the warming actually experienced, and Scenario B projected approximately 50 percent more of a temperature increase than experienced.

The problem for Hansen’s team is their Scenario C, the only projection close to the actual measured temperatures for the period, was predicated upon atmospheric carbon dioxide levels topping out at 368 parts per million in 2000 with no increase thereafter. In reality, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reached 368 ppm in 1999 and continued their rise thereafter to 407 ppm in 2017.

SOURCE: Climate Etc.

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org

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