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Trump to Nominate Wheeler as New EPA Head

Monday, November 26, 2018

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President Donald J. Trump recently announced that he intends to nominate interim Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler for the position permanently. Trump made the announcement during a Medal of Freedom ceremony earlier this month.

Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, started out his career in the EPA as an employee working on the toxic substances policy. Since then, he most notably worked under Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and took over at the agency after former administrator Scott Pruitt Resigned.

Pruitt’s Resignation

Pruitt resigned in July amidst allegations of improper spending of taxpayer money, self-dealing and inappropriate use of staff. His resignation letter cited the “unrelenting attacks” as the reason for his stepping down.

Gage Skidmore, CC-BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pruitt resigned in July amidst allegations of improper spending of taxpayer money, self-dealing and inappropriate use of staff. His resignation letter cited the “unrelenting attacks” as the reason for his stepping down.

“It is extremely difficult for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity, but also because of the transformative work that is occurring,” Pruitt wrote. “However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.”

When Trump accepted his resignation, he made it clear that the decision did not come from the White House.

“Scott is a terrific guy. And he came to me and he said, ‘I have such great confidence in the administration. I don’t want to be a distraction.’ And I think Scott felt that he was a distraction.”

Pruitt was confirmed in early 2017 and dealt with pressing industry issues such as the Toxic Substances Control Act and lead paint cases.

In August 2017, Pruitt announced that the agency had eliminated a monthslong backlog of new chemical cases that needed TSCA safety reviews, something the group had been trying to clear for some time.

When Pruitt was confirmed, the EPA had about 600 new chemicals that were “stuck” in the review process. What’s considered a normal caseload for the agency at one time is about 300 cases, and when Pruitt made the announcement, there were approximately 308 under current review, with an additional 74 that are labeled for “testing and long-term information gathering by submitters.”

At that time Pruitt also announced a number of plans and new measures regarding chemicals and the TSCA.

Just a month later, a federal appeals court ordered the EPA to revise standards that protect children against lead paint. That came to fruition a few weeks ago, when the agency released a proposal to lower the dust-lead hazard standards (the amount of lead that can be found in dust and dirt before it's considered a hazard).

And, just a few weeks prior to that, the EPA announced that it had decided to move forward with a ruling on paint-stripper methylene chloride, prohibiting the consumer and commercial use of the chemical. That ruling, however, has since been stalled and is now encountering threats of legal action.

About Wheeler

Wheeler has taken the reins to run business as usual.

“I will try to work to implement the president’s agenda,” Wheeler told The Washington Post this past summer. “I don’t think the overall agenda is going to change that much, because we’re implementing what the president has laid out for the agency.”

After beginning his work in the EPA and working for Inhofe, Wheeler became a lobbyist at the Faegre Baker Daniels consulting firm, primarily working with coal industry client Robert E. Murray, chief executive of Murray Energy Corp.

While his ties to the coal industry have sparked some debate, Wheeler was confirmed for his current role with a 53-45 vote.


Tagged categories: EPA; EPA; Good Technical Practice; Government; North America; President Trump; Regulations

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