President Donald Trump on Wednesday officially nominated Andrew Wheeler—former coal lobbyist and man with little tact on social media—to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Wheeler, who has been serving as acting chief following the ouster of former EPA leader Scott Pruitt, could be confirmed to the role before the end of the ongoing government shutdown, with a confirmation hearing slated for next week.
As Republicans hold the majority in the Senate, Wheeler will almost certainly be confirmed. Wheeler said in a statement that he was “honored and grateful” for the nomination, per the Hill, adding that there was “no greater responsibility than protecting human health and the environment.” It’s an interesting remark coming from someone whose manner of operation leans hard into fucking with exactly those things.
Shortly after he took the role as acting chief, Wheeler’s EPA revised an Obama-era rule intended to regulate potentially dangerous coal ash, which if not properly managed can lead to groundwater contamination. Wheeler billed the move at the time as “a significant departure from the one-size-fits-all policies of the past [that would] save tens of millions of dollars in regulatory costs.” But Ruth Santiago, an attorney with the Environmental Dialogue Committee in Puerto Rico—where coal ash contamination of groundwater is a serious concern—told Eather at the time that the revision was “a menace to public health.”
Wheelers’ unspooling of regulations under the guise that they are too costly is how the EPA is also attempting to roll back regulating mercury emissions and spin its pro-coal agenda as beneficial to low-income communities and people of color.
As the Hill noted, the move by Trump comes as little surprise given that he’s said Wheeler’s nomination was imminent. The president also tweeted in July, following Pruitt’s exit, that he had “no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda,” adding that “the future of the EPA is very bright!”
Wheeler may find support in Trump, but critics have already slammed his nomination as bad for the environment.
“Wheeler has advanced the same destructive agenda as Pruitt, but without sideshow antics slowing him down,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “If he’s confirmed, Wheeler would surpass Pruitt as the most dangerous EPA administrator of all time. The Senate must not give him the chance.”