EPA Can Protect the Environment and Deregulate, Agency Head Claims

Photo Credit: Matt Rourke/AP/Shutterstock
April 22, 2019

By Spencer Feingold

Under the presidency of Donald Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency has taken dozens of steps to eliminate federal policies in place to protect the nation's environment.

But the agency’s administrator, Andrew Wheeler, says his department can roll back regulations and maintain its conservationist mandate.

When President Trump “asked me to take over at the agency, he said to continue to clean up the air, continue to clean up the water, and continue to deregulate in order to create more jobs,” Wheeler told Cheddar's J.D. Durkin in a recent interview ahead of Earth Day on Monday. “So we are doing all three at the same time.”

In just two years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has scrapped a requirement for energy companies to report greenhouse emissions, reversed a 2015 law that banned the use of hydrofluorocarbon chemicals in refrigerator and cooling systems, and stopped independently verifying industry emission projections.

The agency has proposed dozens more roll-back measures, many of which have either been held up or blocked by the courts after states sued for injunctions citing environmental and health concerns.

Nonetheless, Wheeler said the EPA’s "mission is not to deregulate ー our mission is to protect the environment and public health, but we can do that and deregulate at the same time.”

Wheeler also asserted that deregulation under President Trump has saved the American people $3 billion and has been necessary to modernize outdated statutes.

Wheeler, who took over the EPA after Scott Pruitt resigned in 2018 amid an ethics scandal, was a former lobbyist for the coal industry and controversial pick to head the agency.

“Putting a coal lobbyist like Andrew Wheeler in charge of the EPA is like giving a thief the keys to a bank vault,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in November after the appointment.

But Wheeler said that critics, especially young people concerned about climate change, do not understand the state of the U.S. environment.

“The media does not do a good job of reporting on the state of the environment. A lot of young people, a lot of millennials, a lot of younger people who are voting for the first time think the state of the environment is horrible,” Wheeler said. “Actually our air quality is 73 percent cleaner than it was in the 1970s.”

Wheeler also criticized the Green New Deal, which Democrats formally introduced in February as an economic stimulus proposal to combat climate change and to move the U.S away from fossil fuels.

Wheeler said that the EPA was addressing climate change — the White House drew flak Monday for marking Earth Day in a statement with no mention of climate change ー and claimed that the Green New Deal’s focus on renewable energy sources threatens the reliability of the nation’s electrical grid.

“Most people that look at wind or solar only look at the pros and they don’t look at the cons. There are negative impacts of every single energy source,” Wheeler said, noting that wind energy is especially bad for birds. “You go to a wind farm, you see dead birds littered around the windmills all the time."

Wheeler added that the U.S. needs all forms of energy to create “best overall fuel mix for the country” but that the energy decisions should be made at the state and local levels.

For full interview click here.