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By Lynn L. Bergeson, Christopher R. Bryant, and Margaret R. Graham

Following through on a commitment he made in November 2018, President Trump on January 9, 2019, formally nominated Andrew Wheeler to serve as the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Mr. Wheeler has served as EPA’s Acting Administrator since the resignation of Scott Pruitt in July 2018.  Mr. Wheeler previously worked in the law firm of Faegre Baker Daniels and was chief counsel to the Senate’s Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee.  Before his time at the Senate EPW Committee, Mr. Wheeler served in a similar capacity for six years for the Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change, Wetlands, and Nuclear Safety.  Mr. Wheeler completed his law degree at Washington University in St. Louis, his MBA at George Mason University, and his undergraduate work at Case Western Reserve University in English and Biology.  Mr. Wheeler’s confirmation hearing in front of the Senate EPW Committee is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. (EST) on January 16, 2019.  It will be webcast on the EPW Committee website.


 

By Jessie Nguyen and Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 1, 2018, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW Committee) held a hearing entitled “Examining EPA’s Agenda:  Protecting the Environment and Allowing America’s Economy to Grow.”  Testifying at the hearing was Andrew Wheeler, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Acting Administrator.  Witness testimony and an archive of the hearing are available online.  The hearing was intended to provide Wheeler with the opportunity to present himself for the first time in front of the EPW Committee as the Acting Administrator, and to update the EPW Committee on EPA’s agenda since the resignation of Scott Pruitt, EPA’s former Administrator.  Wheeler’s testimony highlighted three main priorities for EPA moving forward:  (1) regulatory certainty between EPA and state/local governments; (2) improvement of programs within EPA; and (3) increased transparency in risk communication.

During the questioning, Wheeler informed the EPW Committee that the clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay and the prevention of future lead contamination are high priorities for the Agency.  When questioned by Senator John Boozman (R-AR) about EPA’s relationship with stakeholders, Wheeler stated that clear communication between EPA and its stakeholders is essential before implementing any regulatory action.  EPA is also committed to working with other government agencies to enhance their regulatory process.

Next, the Trump Administration’s decision to roll back auto fuel efficiency and emissions standards, as well as the partial revocation of California’s ability to set its own emissions standards, was met with strong objection from Democratic Senators.  Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) stated that the oil industry is “scared to death that $1 trillion will stay stranded in the pockets of consumers.  That’s why the Trump Administration is moving to roll back these standards.”  Wheeler stated his belief that the roll back in emissions standards has saved American consumers $500 billion dollars and 12,000 lives.  Moving forward, Wheeler wants to come up with a “50-states solution” for emissions standards to address the issue of air pollutants and reduce cross-state pollution.

The topic of chemicals was brought up by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) as he is concerned that EPA’s failure to consider all sources of exposure for risk assessment will pose an unreasonable risk to human health -- especially to vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant women, and the elderly.  Senator Booker urged EPA to ban trichloroethylene (TCE) on the applications for which proposed rules were issued and ban methylene chloride since they are known carcinogens with recognized health hazards.  Wheeler said EPA is moving forward with the assessment of these chemicals, but he declined to promise on a definitive timeframe.  Similarly, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) urged EPA to release the toxicological report on perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and set a safety level for PFOS in soil and water.

In response to a question on clean energy by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Wheeler stated he will not give preferential treatment for one source of energy over another; EPA’s role is to regulate pollutants, not to identify a preferential fuel source.  Other miscellaneous topics included Wheeler’s commitment to not abuse his hiring authority.  He expressed a willingness to notify the EPW Committee on EPA’s hiring process.  In response to Senator Tammy Duckworth’s (D-IL) request, EPA will also make a commitment to reduce lead exposure. 


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On November 29, 2017, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the nomination of Andrew R. Wheeler, Esquire for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy Administrator.  Mr. Wheeler currently works as a Principal at Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting providing guidance on federal regulatory and legislative environmental and energy issues.  He began his environmental policy career at EPA in 1991 when he was Special Assistant to the Information Management Division Director in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) during the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations.  He also spent many years on Capitol Hill as Chief Counsel to U.S. Senator James Inhofe, and Staff Director and Chief Counsel for two Senate Committees:  the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) and the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change, Wetlands, and Nuclear Safety.  Mr. Wheeler received his JD from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, and his MBA from George Mason University.