The Senate has confirmed former coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, despite concerns by Democrats and one Republican about regulatory rollbacks he's made in eight months as the agency's acting chief.
"I believe that Mr. Wheeler, unlike Scott Pruitt, understands the mission of the EPA and acts in accordance with ethical standards; however, 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", Collins, who supported Wheeler's confirmation as deputy EPA administrator previous year, said in a statement.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, praised the appointment, saying Wheeler takes a commonsense approach to solving important issues.
Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Andrew Wheeler speaks during an event hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 17, 2018.
"We look forward to continuing our work with EPA on these priorities and more to ensure a bright future for America and homegrown biofuels", Skor said. Since taking over, Wheeler has focused on repealing or weakening policies to protect public health from pollution, including limits on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants and hazardous chemicals in consumer products.
"Instead of handing him a promotion, the Senate should investigate Wheeler's ties to the fossil fuel industry and halt his unsafe and destructive policies", Ariel Moger of Friends of the Earth said ahead of his confirmation. "And he seems to be perfectly happy to scrap decades of environmental progress of clean air and clean water".
Wheeler's nomination has been welcomed by businesses eager to see reduced regulation, but upset Democrats and conservation groups anxious that environmental rollbacks under the Trump administration are going too far.
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And the list of regulations Wheeler has overseen in his short tenure as the acting administrator is ever growing.
In the seven months since, Wheeler has released them rapid-fire. They also have urged the Trump administration to promote sustainable sources of energy.
A new administration, he noted, can reverse course and try to undo some of the deregulation. Prior to leading the EPA, Pruitt served as Oklahoma's attorney general, during which time he sued the agency numerous times because of various regulations. At his confirmation hearing in January, Wheeler talked about the dozens of rules that the EPA has rolled back over the past few years.
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont pressed him at the time on his views about climate change.
Wheeler's record-breaking reign as acting administrator was marked by an unprecedented assault on greenhouse gas regulations amid historic wildfires and hurricanes that scientists say offer a preview of the rapidly warming world to come.
"I would not call it the greatest crisis", he said.