The Senate on Thursday confirmed acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler to head the agency.
Since Wheeler became the acting administrator last July, he has released plans to unwind rising emissions and attendant fuel economy standards enacted under President Obama, and to rescind California's half-century-old authority to set tighter emissions standards than the federal government. He's moved twice to loosen emissions standards on coal-fired powerplants and promoted "clean coal" at a U.N. global-warming conference in Poland in December, and axed the EPA's office of the science advisor.
Wheeler calls himself a "conservationist" rather than an environmentalist, and has worked on environmental issues at the EPA and in Congress since the 1990s. During the Obama administration, he worked for a law firm that represented and did lobbying work for Murray Energy, one of the nation's largest coal producers, whose founder and chairman was a large Trump supporter.
During his Senate confirmation vote yesterday, Wheeler's record gave pause to at least two Senators who had previously pledged to support him, Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Joe Manchin III (D-West Virginia). Both said they were concerned about Wheeler's record at the EPA, Collins because of his environmental rollbacks, and Manchin because he said Wheeler has not acted fast enough to limit coal-related toxic chemicals being spilled in West Virginia waterways.
Wheeler was confirmed as acting administrator in July after the previous EPA Administrator, former Kansas Attorney General Scott Pruitt, was forced to resign amid a host of ethical scandals. Pruitt faced the same pressure from Trump to roll back standards as Wheeler, but defending the ethics probes took up so much of his time that the measures weren't released.
In the seven months since, Wheeler has released them rapid-fire. The new regulation freezing fuel economy increases and revoking California's right to set its own standards and do such things as mandate electric car sales is set to be released by April 1. It won't be a joke.