Wheeler Plugs Polluters, Leaves EPA Employees Hanging

Alyssa Roberts, 202-454-4573, aroberts@lcv.org

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler wasted no time touting nonexistent “environmental progress” during his confirmation hearing to lead the EPA this morning — but the *real* environmental champions in the Senate were quick to call out his deceitful attempts to spin a record of putting polluters ahead of public health every step of the way, while 93 percent of agency employees are home without pay due to the Trump Shutdown.

Here are some highlights:

SENATOR CARPER ON WHEELER LACKING URGENCY TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CRISIS: “I live in the lowest-lying state in the country. Our state is sinking, the oceans are rising. We live here not too far away from a place called Ellicott City. They’ve had two five-hundred-year floods in a year — in a year. I live in not a very big state, but there are wildfires bigger than the size of my state in Oregon, Montana, Washington, and California just in the last year. We used to measure rainfall by the inch, now we measure it by the foot. And one of the things I just don’t sense here is the sense of urgency to do something about this. We had thirteen agencies that came together and said this is a huge issue and it’s getting worse, not better … so I’m looking for some passion here and I just don’t feel it. That’s deeply troubling.” [WATCH]

SENATOR MERKLEY ON WHEELER’S REFUSAL TO DISCUSS CLIMATE IMPACTS: “Yesterday when we talked I laid out all the things that are affecting Oregon through climate chaos…and I asked you, how concerned are you about these impacts on my constituents, the people of the United States. And you shifted to saying my job is to follow rules and work to obey lawsuits. So I came back to you again and I said again these are tremendous impacts that we are seeing hugely damaging. How concerned are you? And you shifted to saying you’re looking forward to going to Africa to talk about clean drinking water for Africans.” [WATCH]

SENATOR WHITEHOUSE ON WHEELER ASSERTING CLEAN CAR ROLLBACK WOULD REDUCE CARBON EMISSIONS: “I do think that there is a baseline that we should work off of, of straight answers that are truthful and complete, and I would note with respect to your recent answers to Senator Sanders about the CAFE standards that the federal register analysis — your analysis — of the CAFE standard proposal that you have increases CO2 emissions year after year after year after year, up to nine percent increased CO2 emissions by 2035 relative to the existing baseline. So I don’t think it’s fair to say that you’re taking action to help the carbon emissions problem when your proposal is worse that the baseline you began with.” [WATCH]

SENATOR VAN HOLLEN READING LETTERS FROM FURLOUGHED EPA EMPLOYEES: “‘I work for the EPA and have been furloughed. I have triplets that are in college and it is very tough to meet their education needs and pay our bills without my salary, which is the major income source for our family. My son has Crohn’s disease, requiring expensive medical treatments.’ … ‘I work for EPA. I love my job, and I feel like my program is important for protecting public health. My son is a junior in high school. I found out yesterday that fees for the AP exams are due January 31st. I don’t see how I can afford these fees. He’s going to lose the opportunity to pass four AP tests. Ironically, one of them is U.S. Government.’” [WATCH]

SENATOR DUCKWORTH ON EPA’S INACTION ON LEAD: “Right before the holidays and the government shutdown, you announced the release of the administration’s long-delayed Lead Action Plan. I was disappointed to see that this plan walks back earlier goals on eliminating lead exposure. In fact, the new plan has the objective to reduce children’s exposure — as opposed to eliminating exposure — in homes and child-occupied facilities with lead-based hazards.” [WATCH]

SENATOR WHITEHOUSE ON WHEELER SAYING ELIMINATING THE CLEAN POWER PLAN WOULD *REDUCE* CARBON EMISSIONS: “Similarly you referred to your ACE program replacing the Clean Power Plan as being something that would reduce carbon emissions and again your own analysis in the Federal Register — the government’s own analysis in the Federal Register shows that compared to the Clean Power Plan, your proposal will raise carbon emissions — CO2 emissions by tens of millions of tons every single year, including for example in 2030, raising it by 60 million tons in that year.” [WATCH]

SENATOR BOOKER ON WHEELER COMPROMISING PUBLIC HEALTH: “Your mission of the EPA — which is to protect human health and the environment, which you swore an oath to and faithfully discharge these duties — yet you see to be constantly doing things that undermines the health and safety of this nation, the economic wellbeing of our nation. And frankly putting into further peril not just our country, but the planet.” [WATCH]

SENATOR MARKEY ON WHEELER’S REFUSAL TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE: “That’s unacceptable. You’re looking to be confirmed as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. And we’re having a hearing on your worthiness for this job and you very conveniently haven’t had enough time yet to review whether or not there’s an extra level of urgency to this problem.” [WATCH]

Wheeler also claimed to be a conservationist and asserted that on a 10 point scale, he’s an “8 or 9” on how worried he is about climate change. Don’t buy his rhetoric. The Trump administration has consistently attacked public health protections critical to clean air and safe drinking water, tried to sell off our public lands to the highest bidder, and harmed wildlife while dismantling efforts to fight climate change. The record shows this administration puts their polluter allies — not the public — first. Again and again.

Since Wheeler took over as Acting EPA Administrator, they’ve already:

  • Proposed rolling back Clean Water Act protections for the drinking water of tens of millions of people
  • Gutted Mercury Air Toxics Standards that help ensure children, pregnant mothers and other vulnerable populations are protected from the potent neurotoxin
  • Decimated fuel efficiency Clean Car Standards that could have saved drivers more than $60 billion while helping clean up our air and fight climate change — along with attacking state authority to set more aggressive fuel efficiency standards

Our communities deserve a strong EPA that will protect our air, water and public health, and it’s time to get back to that mission. The Senate can start by reopening the EPA and rejecting coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler’s nomination.

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