Senate confirms ex-coal lobbyist to lead U.S. environment regulator

Andrew Wheeler addresses staff at EPA headquarters

Andrew Wheeler addresses staff at EPA headquarters

The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed President Donald Trump's candidate, a former coal lobbyist, to lead the nation's top environmental regulator, infuriating Democrats and conservation groups who said his policies were endangering public health.

"I believe that Mr. Wheeler, unlike Scott Pruitt, understands the mission of the EPA and acts in accordance with ethical standards; however, the policies he has supported as Acting Administrator are not in the best interest of our environment and public health, particularly given the threat of climate change to our nation", Collins, who supported Wheeler's confirmation as deputy EPA administrator past year, said in a statement.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate environment committee, called Wheeler "uniquely qualified" to lead EPA and said that under Wheeler the agency is putting forward proposals that "both protect our environment and allow the country's economy to flourish".

Trump nominated Wheeler to serve as EPA administrator in January. "However, the policies he has supported as acting administrator are not in the best interest of our environment and public health, particularly given the threat of climate change to our nation".

At his confirmation hearing in January, Wheeler highlighted dozens of significant rules that the EPA has begun to roll back in the past two years, and he made clear to lawmakers that he meant to continue the Trump administration's reversal of environmental regulations.

Only one Republican in the Republican-controlled Senate opposed Wheeler as the Senate voted 52-47 to confirm him on Thursday.

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Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) both voted against Wheeler after backing him for the deputy role a year ago. "As the head of EPA, Administrator Wheeler can improve our emissions regulations to encourage competition and innovation, and give American drivers access to affordable and renewable fuel choices", said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy.

"There is no doubt that the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change pose a significant threat" to ME and the nation, Collins said, adding that pollution from coal-fired power plants threatens Maine's natural resources, "from our working forests, fishing and agricultural industries, to tourism and recreation".

Wheeler's record-breaking reign as acting administrator was marked by an unprecedented assault on greenhouse gas regulations amid historic wildfires and hurricanes that scientists say offer a preview of the rapidly warming world to come.

The EPA has announced plans to place legal limits on the chemicals but has not done so yet. A month later, federal scientists from 13 agencies, including the EPA, confirmed the findings in a National Climate Assessment that forecast USA average temperatures surging "9 degrees F (5 degrees C) or more by the end of this century".

"Unlike with some nominees, we do not have to speculate about what Mr. Wheeler will do in office", she said.

Hartl with the Center for Biological Diversity said environmental groups have prevailed in court on many of their challenges to the agency's deregulation attempts because its process was "so flawed" and rushed under Pruitt. They also have urged the Trump administration to promote sustainable sources of energy. "We look forward to continuing to work with Mr. Wheeler and his staff on issues critical to farmers and ranchers".

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