Wheeler’s Second Term Vision For EPA — More of the Same

Photo: Screenshot YouTube Nixon Presidential Library

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Andrew Wheeler appeared at the Nixon Presidential Library in California last week and outlined his vision for a second Trump term — with promises to continue efforts to undermine agency science and climate change regulation.  He argued the science of the agency should be more transparent — but failed to explain that the rule would mean that patient studies would not be used by the agency unless patient privacy was compromised.  Wheeler also criticized California GovGavin Newsom without mentioning his name — accusing the state of having “many examples of poor environmental outcomes.”  Finally, he accused prior Administrations of putting other countries’ interests ahead of America’s in a clear slap at the Obama Administration and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Why This Matters:  Wheeler claimed that he would focus on environmental justice and “revitalizing minority communities” while also explaining that “strict enforcement of national air pollution rules had hampered struggling regions such as the industrial Midwest.”  But he cannot have it both ways — the lack of enforcement of pollution rules hurts Black and brown communities. Not to mention the gall of criticizing prior climate rules the Trump Administration rolled back while Californians struggle through a brutal heatwave and devastating wildfires that are made much worse by climate change.

Prior Administrators Critical Of EPA

As The Hill explained, in a recent letter on the 50th anniversary of the agency, several former EPA administrators who served under both Republican and Democratic administrations said that under current leadership the agency is abandoning its mission and needs revitalization.  A group of 500 “alums” of the EPA wrote a report accompanying the letter and the report contained a comprehensive and detailed set of recommendations for setting new directions at EPA.  Wheeler criticized the report.

In his California speech, he went farther criticizing his predecessors, saying, according to The Washington Post,

“’unfortunately, in the past decade or so, some members of former administrations and progressives in Congress have elevated single-issue advocacy — in many cases focused just on climate change — to virtue-signal to foreign capitals, over the interests of communities within their own country,’ Wheeler said, in a reference to the Paris climate accord, the international agreement to limit greenhouse gases, from which Trump plans to withdraw the United States in November.”

In response, EPA’s former leader on environmental justice, Mustafa Santiago Ali, said in a statement:

“The actions over the last four years by Trump’s EPA has put lives in all communities at risk but especially our most vulnerable communities. Their decisions to weaken and rollback basic air and water protections increase chronic medical conditions, expand sacrifice zones across our country, increase susceptibility to Covid-19 send a clear message that the lives of Black, Brown and Indigenous lives have little value to the current administration.”

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