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Senate Confirms Andrew Wheeler as EPA Administrator

March 21, 2019

The U.S. Senate confirmed Andrew Wheeler as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by a party-line vote of 52 in favor and 47 opposed, on February 28.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Andrew Wheeler as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by a party-line vote of 52 in favor and 47 opposed, on February 28.

Since becoming acting administrator with the resignation of former Administrator Scott Pruitt, Wheeler has continued President Donald Trump’s efforts to limit and revise regulations the administration says unnecessarily hamper economic growth, energy production and use, and job creation, while maintaining the agency’s focus on environmental protection.

Experienced Hand

Before Wheeler joined the Trump administration’s EPA, he had long experience with the agency. Wheeler twice earned the agency’s bronze medal when he worked in EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics in the early 1990s. Later, Wheeler worked in Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-OK) congressional office. Inhofe chaired the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, which exercises oversight over EPA’s operations.

During his confirmation hearings, Wheeler touted EPA’s deregulatory efforts under which the agency has rewritten or replaced numerous rules enacted under former President Barack Obama. These include the agency’s decision to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with the American Clean Energy rule, and the agency’s decision to rescind Obama-era fuel economy updates and timelines, instituting in their stead the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficiency rule.

Wheeler testified the 13 major deregulatory actions he had overseen during his period as EPA’s acting administrator have saved Americans “roughly $1.8 billion in regulatory costs,” even as air and water quality continue to improve and the amount of toxic chemicals released has declined.

‘Continuing the President’s Agenda’

Responding to his confirmation, Wheeler tweeted, “It is truly humbling to serve the American public as EPA Administrator. I want to thank President Trump for nominating me and Leader McConnell and [Senate Natural Resources Committee] Chairman [John] Barrasso [R-WY] for navigating my confirmation through the Senate.”

“I am deeply honored, and I look forward to continuing the President’s agenda and the work of the Agency alongside all my EPA colleagues,” Wheeler’s tweet concluded.

Barrasso favorably contrasted Wheeler’s regulatory reform efforts to EPA’s actions under Obama.

“During the last administration, the EPA issued punishing regulations that would hurt the economy and raise costs on families,” said Barrasso in a statement. “Under Acting Administrator Wheeler’s leadership, the EPA has taken a different approach. The agency is now putting forward proposals that both protect our environment and allow the country’s economy to flourish.”

‘Experience, Expertise, and Commitment’

Wheeler is exactly the right leader at EPA to ensure the agency’s actions support Trump’s energy dominance agenda to the extent possible, says Tim Huelskamp, Ph.D., president of The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News. Huelskamp formerly served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“With his experience, expertise, and commitment to its mission, Andrew Wheeler is the right choice to lead the EPA,” Huelskamp said. “As administrator, Wheeler will continue his tremendous leadership on energy and environmental policy.

“President Donald Trump has in place a true leader to implement America’s energy freedom agenda,” said Huelskamp.

Democrats Object

Every Democrat voted against Wheeler’s confirmation.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) criticized Wheeler for not encouraging Trump to support the Kigali Amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which would add refrigerants that are greenhouse gases to the list of chemicals banned under the treaty, even if they don’t harm the ozone layer.

Carper singled out the fact Wheeler has not urged the White House to submit the Kigali amendment to the Senate for ratification as one of the reasons he thought Wheeler unfit to lead EPA.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (hsburnett@heartland.org) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute.

Official Connections

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY): https://www.barrasso.senate.gov/public/; https://www.barrasso.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact-form

Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE): https://www.carper.senate.gov/public/; https://www.carper.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email-senator-carper

 

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