Putting a coal lobbyist like Andrew Wheeler in charge of the EPA is like giving a bank robber the keys to the vault, making Tony Soprano the head of the FBI, hiring Palpatine to run the Galactic Senate, or putting the Hamburglar in charge of McDonalds. The fox in the hen house analogies are endless here, but so is Wheeler’s ability to rollback vital safeguards to our air, water, and climate and put our environment and health at risk should he remain in the top spot at the EPA. Wheeler isn’t just friendly with corporate polluters; he’s been on their team for years.
We know Andrew Wheeler is a dangerous threat to the health of our families and our air and water because he’s already proven that in his short time at the EPA and in his long career as a lobbyist for corporate polluters. Here’s how we know:
Nomination During a Government Shutdown
While his employees aren’t getting paid, Wheeler is angling for a promotion from acting EPA administrator to EPA administrator. Non-furloughed employees are spending their unpaid time preparing for Wheeler’s hearing. Here’s a list of things the EPA isn’t doing:
Inspections of hazardous waste management sites and chemical facilities
Reviews of pesticides
Holding planned hearings for those displaced by by lead contamination
Processing Freedom of Information Act requests
Updating Utahns on the dangerous dirty haze looming over Salt Lake City
Here’s a list of things they are doing:
Preparing for a hearing for coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler’s confirmation.
In his first 100 days as acting administrator, Wheeler, every three days on average, either rolled back a new climate safeguard, ignored and contradicted science, met with big polluters, limited the EPA’s ability to protect us from pollution, or gave in to corporate polluter demands.
Mercury and Air Toxics
During Trump’s needless government shutdown, instead of advancing the EPA’s core mission of protecting our land, air, and water, during the government shutdown, Wheeler used the EPA’s final hours of staff time before they were furloughed to attack the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). These lifesaving protections prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths a year, help avoid as many as 130,000 asthma attacks, and keep deadly neurotoxins, which impair children’s brain development, out of our air and water.
Andrew Wheeler proposed ignoring tens of billions of dollars in the MATS’ health benefits to make it easier for a handful of coal executives who supported Trump’s presidential bid to attack its legal justification in court.
By choosing to ignore the health benefits for the MATS, Wheeler’s proposal could also decisively tilt all of the EPA’s future cost-benefit analyses in favor of polluters -- potentially altering the EPA’s administration of many other Clean Air Act provisions to be against science and public health. Wheeler is trying to permanently weaken the EPA’s ability to protect the public -- just so polluting corporations can make more money.
Clean Car Standards
Under Wheeler’s backwards leadership, the EPA has proposed reversing what are the single greatest and the most effective strategies we have to reduce GHG emissions -- the clean car standards.
Transportation is overwhelmingly the largest and fastest-growing source of emissions and oil consumption in the U.S. Our cars and pickup trucks account for almost 50 percent of oil used in the United States and nearly one-third of our greenhouse gas emissions.
But the 2012 clean car standards proposed for rollback are helping to curb the emissions that cause climate change. By 2025, vehicle efficiency and clean car standards are expected to*
Nearly double vehicle efficiency;
Save 6 billion metric tons of dangerous climate pollution;
Save America 4 billion barrels of oil;
Save Americans $67 billion to $122 billion over the lifetime of vehicles when the standards are fully implemented.
* (all numbers are total benefits from 2012-2025)
Clean Power Plan
The Clean Power Plan protects the health of our families and communities by curbing dangerous, climate-disrupting carbon pollution that is exacerbating extreme weather events, as well as reducing other harmful pollutants that contribute to dangerous smog and soot, causing heart attacks, respiratory illnesses, and even premature deaths. But Wheeler has proposed gutting the Clean Power Plan and replacing it with a Dirty Power Scam.
While the Clean Power Plan would prevent 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 asthma attacks every year by 2030, Wheeler’s Dirty Power Scam qouls let coal-burning plants pollute our air with impunity. Wheeler's EPA even admits that the Dirty Power Scam would kill up to 1,600 people every year. It's linked to lung disease, asthma, and more.
Wheeler released a plan to weaken key safeguards limiting methane and other harmful pollutants from the oil and gas industry. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide during the time it remains in the atmosphere.
The EPA itself acknowledges the health danger posed by oil and gas emissions, particularly to children. In a notice in the Federal Register on an attempted delay of the rule last year, the agency noted that, “the EPA believes that the environmental health or safety risk addressed by this action may have a disproportionate effect on children.”
The protections now under attack were finalized during the Obama administration after years of public input from the public and the oil and gas industry. The Trump administration’s attempt to unilaterally delay these safeguards was defeated in court last summer thanks to the efforts of the Sierra Club and its allies, and they have now been fully in effect for over a year. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have submitted public comments urging the agency to protect our climate and communities by keeping these commonsense safeguards in place.
There’s still more we don’t know. A federal court has ruled in favor of the Sierra Club that the EPA must expedite the public release of approximately 20,000 pages of emails and calendars from Acting Administrator Wheeler and 24 other political staff involved in rollbacks of critical public health and environmental safeguards. Freedom of Information Act documents alerted us to Scott Pruitt’s wrongdoings, and they can tell us about Wheeler’s, too. Wheeler’s hearing should not be held until we have all of the documents and know exactly what Wheeler has been up to.