Former Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) marked the end of a productive but tumultuous period for the agency. The good news? Pruitt’s replacement, Andrew Wheeler, will likely continue the needed reforms Pruitt began. In the immortal words of The Who, “Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss.”
However history judges Pruitt’s tenure at EPA, critics and supporters can agree he initiated a series of efforts to fundamentally transform the antiquated agency. He ended sue-and-settle agreements; reshaped its science advisory committees; reduced graft; and rolled back myriad regulatory actions, including the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, the massive increase in the Corporate Fuel Economy Standard (CAFE), and various energy efficiency mandates for appliances. Thanks to Pruitt, EPA is finally changing how it conducts business.
You might be concerned that Pruitt’s absence could result in a complete change in course, but fear not! President Donald Trump’s energy and environment agenda will not substantively change with Wheeler’s ascension to the agency’s top post.
Sadly, and not surprisingly, environmental zealots treated Wheeler’s appointment as though it is the end of the world. A Huffington Post headline stated, “Scott Pruitt’s Replacement Is Even Worse.” In the article, Frank O’Donnell, president of the left-wing group Clean Air Watch, stated, “This is like rearranging deck chairs on the environmental Titanic.”
The Left’s histrionic response to Wheeler mirrors its response to Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. Regardless of an appointee’s qualifications, anyone Trump nominates to lead the EPA will inevitably be tarred and feathered by the Left and braded a climate-change-denying polluter.
Environmentalists dread Wheeler for the same reason small-government advocates applaud him: Wheeler could be even more effective than Pruitt at rolling back onerous regulations. EPA’s new chief has significant experience working within and outside of the agency. In fact, Wheeler won awards for his work at the agency between 1991 through 1995. Subsequently, Wheeler worked as majority staff director and chief counsel at the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, with EPA oversight. Wheeler will be more than capable to rein in EPA overreach.
The regulatory rollback at EPA started under Pruitt is expected to increase with Wheeler at the helm. EPA is currently working on overhauling CPP, WOTUS, and CAFE to improve transparency and ease compliance with commonsense guidelines.
In his short time as the agency’s acting administrator, there has been no shortage of statements supporting Wheeler as a more disciplined, less scandal prone replacement for Pruitt.
“We have full confidence in Andrew both from his past experience and the job he has done at EPA,” Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the Washington Examiner. “We think he will carry on the Trump reform agenda in a really competent way.”
“For the top people at the EPA, the various Pruitt accusations have been a real challenge and a distraction,” Ebell continued. “Once Pruitt is gone, and Andrew is in charge, people will get back to doing their jobs everyday rather than accusations.”
“With Andy Wheeler stepping in to replace Pruitt, I think we’ll see a change in style but not in substance,” Jeff Holmstead, a former deputy administrator of the EPA in the George W. Bush administration, told the Washington Examiner. “Andy probably is the ideal person to lead EPA at this point.
“Pruitt got a lot of regulatory reforms started, but he’s never worked a regulatory agency and didn’t fully understand the administrative process and what it would take to get them finalized. Andy certainly does,” Holmstead said. “He’s worked on these issues for years and may actually be more effective than Pruitt when it comes to carrying out the reforms that Pruitt started.”
No one knows exactly what Wheeler’s tenure might mean for EPA climate policy. Driven by the endangerment finding, EPA has begun the process of drafting a replacement of CPP. However, if Wheeler’s past statements are any indication of EPA’s future actions, it seems like sound science will replace climate alarmism.
The Huffington Post notes in 2010, while working for the Senate, Wheeler “accused the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of blurring ‘the lines between science and advocacy’ and functioning ‘more as a political body than a scientific body,’ suggesting EPA could ‘reconsider its endangerment finding without almost exclusively relying upon the IPCC.’”
All Trump administration officials operate under an intense (and biased) media spotlight. It is difficult, if not impossible, for any Trump appointee to stay below the radar, but if anyone can remain effective and ethical, Andrew Wheeler certainly can. With his knowledge of the inner-workings of EPA’s regulatory processes and his low-key, non-confrontational style, Wheeler can complete the job Pruitt started and restore the EPA back to its mission:protect human health and the environment.