By on January 10, 2019

President Donald Trump nominated Andrew Wheeler as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, setting him up to permanently fill a position he’s already occupied since July.

Trump praised Wheeler in November his “fantastic job” as acting administrator of the EPA following the July 2018 resignation of the agency’s former scandal-ridden head, Scott Pruitt. This month, the president submitted Wheeler’s formal nomination to the Senate. There’s still a ways to go before the ex-lobbyist’s confirmation, though, as the Senate will no doubt be critical of his relatively recent ties to the coal industry.

Of course, attempting to think of an independent government agency that doesn’t have a former lobbyist or corporate executive sitting at the head of its table leads to the conclusion that Wheeler will probably do just fine.

According to Bloomberg, Wheeler said he was “honored and grateful” for the nomination. “For me, there is no greater responsibility than protecting human health and the environment,” he said in an emailed statement. “I look forward to carrying out this essential task on behalf of the American public.”

Wheeler, who spent time as a Republican Senate aide in addition to his energy lobbying duties, clearly responds to Trump’s take on environmental regulation. He also backed many of Pruitt’s more controversial attempts to ease the glut of Obama-era regulations governing pollution that came shortly before the Trump administration took office. However, he’s also been more careful to avoid unwanted scrutiny and slower to play his hand.

Still, we expect more of the same from Wheeler, who’ll likely promote industrial and economic health before environmentalism. He’s already proposed lowering emission mandates for coal-fired power plants, openly backed glider trucks before coming down on them, and appears ready to support Trump’s attempt to rollback Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for automakers — albeit much more cautiously than his predecessor.

As a result, Wheeler is unlikely to prove popular with Democrats and is sure to be downright despised by environmentalists. But it’s not a cut and dried issue. The EPA’s acting head has been extremely critical of President Trump in the past. He also isn’t the kind of drain-the-swamp outsider the president promised, which could annoy the voter base.

Presently, the United States is doing rather well in terms of pollution. The U.S. has managed to lower its pollution index by a significant margin since 2008, faring better than much of Europe at the end of 2018. But there are miles to go before the nation can start lecturing Finland on how to be kinder to Mother Earth and air quality improvements have been gradually slowing since the early 1990s. Don’t anticipate that will change under Wheeler, who will be focused firmly on the business side of the environment after the government shutdown ends and he gains Congressional approval.

[Images: AvidInsight/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0); USEPA]

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11 Comments on “Trump Officially Nominates Andrew Wheeler to Head the EPA...”

  • avatar

    It is my impression that industry mostly wants a clear set of rules and steady predictability, especially when large long term investments are on the line. It seems hard to believe that the current EPA’s regulation will survive long; so, a lot of uncertainty has been introduced.

    Ideally, the EPA should be insulated from politics and be allowed to make sensible, independent, science based policy.

    • 0 avatar

      Robbie, your point on predictability is spot-on. The industry community should be wary of jumping on the mindless cutting of regulation just for the sake of cutting. I strongly suspect (an hope) that most of the rollbacks by the Dinosaur will be undone by the next administration. This is the problem with our country being so divided. A regulatory roller coaster that has big swings back and forth will benefit no one.

      Insulating an agency from politics is not possible. Science should govern decisions, with a cost-benefit analysis that takes into account the indirect impacts as well. Sadly that does not happen. Right now there is a war on science and the intellectual side is losing the battle. Politics are driving decisions that science clearly says is wrong. Can’t let pesky data to get into the way of making money for a few… I await the pendulum to swing back to the correct side.

      I see I am on the “awaiting moderation” list…why? I go out of my way to not be personally offensive….and it is not always easy…

  • avatar

    There is no clear line between science and politics and there never has been.

    Check out the “Green New Deal” to save the planet from what used to be called anthropogenic Catastrophic Global Warming. Citizen; all you have to do is stop resisting socialism and, in return, the government will stop the climate from changing and thereby save the freaking world. Small price to pay.

    Separate science and politics? Hilarious. Ask Galileo. He was also faced with a religious doomsday cult and asked to submit.

  • avatar

    Hopefully, we will see more common-sense regulatory moderation and the practical elimination of CAFE mileage requirement. That would be enough to make this a success.

  • avatar

    “Presently, the United States is doing rather well in terms of pollution. The U.S. has managed to lower its pollution index by a significant margin since 2008, faring better than much of Europe at the end of 2018.”

    Probably had something to do with that glut of Obama-era regs – ?


    And of course Pruitt’s issue was just the corruption, right? Nothing to do with his stated opposition to the actual mission of the EPA – ?

    Comedy gold.

  • avatar

    Great – another “coalie” heading the EPA. It was just announced on Wednesday that the emissions levels in 2017 were at an all-time high thanks to Messer’s Pruitt and Trump. I guess we’ll experience even more pollution until 2020.

  • avatar

    the GOP think clean air and water aren’t important. film at eleven

    • 0 avatar

      The GOP thinks clean air and water ARE important, but draws the line at exorbitantly expensive measures to go from 99.5% to 99.7%. Past EPA management refused to employ a cost-benefit analysis that is required as part of its mission.

  • avatar

    Wheeler’s past as a lobbyist for the coal industry doesn’t make him tainted in any way.

    Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Wall Street insider Joseph P. Kennedy as the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and JPK did the job he was expected to do, outlawing all the underhanded practices he knew about (and that made him rich).

    Of course, FDR dangled the possibility of an ambassadorship as reward for cleaning up Wall Street, but the job got done. Wheeler knows how the system works and what needs to be done to clean it up. Unlike Kennedy’s mere Commision chairmanship, Wheeler has the prestige of a full Cabinet position, so he’s already got the payoff to cap his career.

  • avatar

    All my comments yesterday and today are “awaiting moderation”. Where are the moderators? Did they take the weekend off? Have they been furloughed? Is this the end of TTAC, killed off by a software glitch nobody can fix?

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