Senate confirms coal lobbyist Wheeler as EPA head

Senate confirms coal lobbyist Wheeler as EPA head

Republican U.S. Senator Susan Collins said on Wednesday she will oppose Andrew Wheeler, President Donald Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, complicating the nominee's path to approval by the Senate.

Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a 54-year-old Washington insider with years of experience working as a congressional staffer, was nominated by Trump in January to permanently replace Scott Pruitt, who resigned in July after widespread criticism over his spending and conduct in office.

Meanwhile, Republican Senator John Barrasso, 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".

"The Senate has taken decisive action to confirm Andrew Wheeler as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency", Barrasso said.

While Wheeler is viewed as an improvement over scandal-ridden Pruitt, critics say he will continue the former administrator's deregulation agenda.

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) both voted against Wheeler after backing him for the deputy role past year.

"Instead of handing him a promotion, the Senate should investigate Wheeler's ties to the fossil fuel industry and halt his risky and destructive policies", Ariel Moger of Friends of the Earth said ahead of his confirmation.

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"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".

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.

Collins also voted in 2017 against Pruitt, who resigned past year amid a series of ethics scandals.

Wheeler's nomination has been welcomed by businesses eager to see reduced regulation, but upset Democrats and conservation groups anxious that environmental rollbacks under the Trump administration are going too far.

It's a sad day for public health and the EPA, but mission accomplished for the fossil fuel and chemical industries. The perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known collectively as PFAS, have been linked to health threats ranging from cancer to decreased fertility. "It ought to tell us a lot that the Republicans put up a coal lobbyist to represent the people of America, leading the Environmental Protection Agency", said Sen.

Manchin, of coal-producing West Virginia, said the EPA's proposed changes to the mercury rule "will only serve to further undermine the status of our coal-based utilities". "But it's only a matter of time before his dirty dealings land him in the same trash heap as his predecessor", said Emily Knobbe, EPA policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona-based environmental group.

"We should not move so quickly with Mr. Wheeler's nomination in light of his failure to ensure that EPA acts responsibly, especially in areas where there are such clear "win-wins" that most EPA administrators would have welcomed the opportunity to implement", Carper said during Wheeler's confirmation hearing earlier this month.

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