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Trump Nominates Ex-Coal Lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, To Head EPA

EWG: Wheeler is ‘doubling down’ on Pruitt’s disastrous legacy
Contact: 
(202) 667-6982
For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, January 9, 2019

WASHINGTON – President Trump today officially nominated Andrew Wheeler, a former top lobbyist for the coal and chemical industries, to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Wheeler has been acting EPA administrator since Trump’s first environmental chief, Scott Pruitt, resigned last year after a spate of ethical and spending scandals. Although Wheeler has mostly avoided the kind of public controversies that drove out Pruitt, EWG President Ken Cook said he has surpassed his predecessor in pushing dangerous rollbacks of public health protections.  

“Scott Pruitt was an amateur at the Washington game, prone to nonstop political gaffes and pratfalls that eventually were too embarrassing even for Donald Trump,” said Cook. “Andrew Wheeler is a deregulation pro: much more sophisticated, experienced and therefore more dangerous to the environment and human health.

“Wheeler actually knows how to turn the EPA over to the industries it regulates,” Cook said. “He won’t be caught shopping for used Trump hotel mattresses or sending his security team to buy skin lotion at the Four Seasons. He’ll be studiously taking apart the EPA’s ability to regulate polluters.”

“Wheeler has not just failed to reverse the disastrous course the agency is on courtesy of Scott Pruitt, he’s actually doubling down on behalf of polluters,” said Cook. “He’s pushed policies that will make our air and water dirtier and the chemicals in everyday products more toxic. His horrendous record shows that he simply lacks the commitment to protect public health and the environment required by a nominee to run the EPA.” 

Since taking over as the head of the EPA, Wheeler has steadily overseen the repeal of major air and water pollution and climate change initiatives implemented by the Obama administration. Wheeler has presided over the official repeal of the Clean Power Plan, the mercury rule and the Waters of the U.S. rule and is fighting a federal court ruling requiring the agency to ban the brain-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos.

He is largely ignoring the updated chemicals law passed by Congress in 2016, by allowing a number of highly toxic chemicals, including asbestos, to remain in use. Just this week, Wheeler proposed to keep legal the use of methylene chloride, a paint-stripping chemical so dangerous it has killed 50 Americans in recent decades.

“Wheeler is just as zealous in his animosity toward EPA’s mission of protecting public health as Pruitt was but without the humiliating headlines,” said Cook. “Since taking over at EPA, Wheeler has shown a fervent commitment to boosting the fortunes of his former employers in the coal and chemical industries by knocking down the agency’s efforts to protect people from pollution and combat climate change.”

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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.