The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is there to safeguard the environment of the United States, putting in place regulations that should become more environmentally friendly in order to preserve nature as well as protect against things like climate change that are drastically affecting not only the planet, but the life on it as well.
Of late, however, those in charge have sought to roll back protections that their predecessors have put into place.
Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, has been the acting EPA administrator since last year when former administrator Scott Pruitt left under a dark cloud of controversies. On Thursday, Wheeler was confirmed as the official new administrator after the Senate voted to confirm him.
As reported by The Hill, the vote came down to Republicans versus Democrats, with every member of the GOP bar one voting to confirm Wheeler while all the Democrats voted against. The vote was won 52-47 in his favor, but those who voted against him have some stark criticism for his practices.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican to vote against Wheeler’s confirmation. Her vote was already accounted for on Wednesday, when she explained that she could not in good conscience vote for Wheeler after taking into account all his actions while he was playing the role of deputy administrator and interim administrator.
— ABC News (@ABC) February 28, 2019
“While Mr. Wheeler is certainly qualified for this position, I have too many concerns with the actions he has taken during his tenure as Acting Administrator to be able to support his promotion,” said Collins.
On the other side of the table, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin from West Virginia was the only Democrat to have voted for Wheeler when the Senate had to decide whether or not to give him the role of deputy administrator. On Thursday, he echoed Collins’ sentiments when he explained why this time around his vote would land the other way.
“I voted against him to be the permanent Administrator of the EPA because as Acting Administrator, he hasn’t demonstrated a desire or a will to make any meaningful progress on clean drinking water standards and has rolled back clean air standards that are directly impacting West Virginians, both concerns that I have raised with him.”
After it was confirmed that Wheeler would be taking on the role permanently, he stated that his goal will be to continue to “streamline environmental regulations.”
He continued, proudly listing the regulations he has already cut down since taking on the role in a temporary capacity, including “environmental regulations for power plants and vehicle emissions and protections for small waterways.” His agenda has also rolled back on fines for companies caught polluting.
The argument has been that environmental regulations are hurting the economy of the country.
Just one of the many reasons why ex-coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler is UNFIT to lead the @EPA. Environmental enforcement – holding polluters accountable – is at a 30-year low. #StopWheeler https://t.co/9yvk4Mzb2n
— Defend Our Future | #ActOnClimate (@DefendOurFuture) February 25, 2019
Other lawmakers have praised Wheeler for at least being “accessible,” something Pruitt was apparently not. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) also went so far as to call Pruitt an “ethical bereft embarrassment.”
Environmentalists are no more excited about Wheeler’s appointment than the Democrats who voted no on the motion. Wheeler has been criticized for continuing to take meetings with “various fossil fuel industry leaders,” and putting their desires ahead of his job title that requires him to protect the environment, with one accusing him of being “deep in the pockets of oil and coal executives.”