By Michael Brooks
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Tuesday voted 11-10 along party lines to advance the nomination of Andrew Wheeler to be EPA administrator to the full Senate.
Wheeler, who has been serving as acting administrator since the July resignation of Scott Pruitt, was nominated to be the official head of the agency by President Trump early last month.
Republicans on the committee praised Wheeler for his work at the agency, while Democrats expressed concern about his efforts to roll back Obama administration policies on vehicle and power plant emissions — statements that largely echoed those made at his confirmation hearing Jan. 16. (See Dems Press EPA’s Wheeler on Climate at Confirmation Hearing.)
“It brings me no joy to say that he has not done what I had hoped he would do in a number of important respects,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the committee, said of Wheeler’s tenure as acting administrator. “In fact, in many instances, Mr. Wheeler has gone further than his predecessor in his rejection of important measures that are supported by a broad list of environmentalists and industry.”
Carper cited EPA’s proposal to rescind its finding under the Obama administration that it is “appropriate and necessary” to regulate hazardous air pollutant emissions from power plants under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act — a finding that led to the creation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.
“In this MATS rollback proposal, EPA is willfully ignoring the actual benefits of reducing air toxics that permanently damage children’s brains and cause cancer, and ignoring the fact that the compliance costs were a third of what were originally estimated,” Carper said.
Ahead of the vote, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) had raised concerns about a Politico report that Wheeler had signed off on a plan not to regulate two toxic chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, in drinking water. She joined 19 other senators from both parties in signing a letter Feb. 1 urging Wheeler to reverse that decision.
“Mr. Wheeler and his staff came to my office and addressed those concerns by pledging to look at all available statutory authorities EPA has been granted by Congress to address this potential crisis,” Capito said. “I intend to closely track the steps that EPA and other agencies are taking to address this public health and environmental health crisis, which has had a particular impact on West Virginians living in affected communities, to ensure that the federal government is sufficiently responsive to their concerns.”