WASHINGTON – The Senate today narrowly confirmed Andrew Wheeler, a former top lobbyist for coal and chemical companies, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Wheeler has been serving as acting administrator of the agency since July, after former Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned in disgrace over a series of ethical and spending scandals. Since taking over, Wheeler has focused on repealing or weakening policies to protect public health from pollution, including limits on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants and hazardous chemicals in consumer products.
He is challenging a federal court’s order to ban chlorpyrifos, a widely used pesticide known to harm children’s brains. Recently he unveiled a toothless “action plan” that fails utterly to address the nationwide crisis of drinking water contaminated with PFAS chemicals, fluorinated compounds linked to cancer, thyroid disease and weakened childhood immunity.
Here is a statement from EWG President Ken Cook:
It’s a sad day for public health and the EPA, but mission accomplished for the fossil fuel and chemical industries. They have longed for one of their own calling the shots at the agency, and now they finally have their man in Andrew Wheeler.
In its almost 50-year history, the agency has had good and not-so-good administrators. But this is the first time the administrator is someone who’s spent much of his career lobbying against the agency’s mission. With the Senate confirmation safely behind him, Wheeler will no doubt move with even more zeal to tear down safeguards and erect barriers that will put more Americans’ health at risk.
Unlike Scott Pruitt, Wheeler won’t waste time and taxpayer money searching for used Trump Hotel mattresses and fancy hand lotions. He was picked by President Trump and backed by far-right industry front groups to do one job as the head of EPA: Make it easier and cheaper for polluters to pollute. By that measure, he’s doing a heckuva job.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.