Sen. Tom Carper released, on Jan. 29, Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator and nominee Andrew Wheeler’s responses to questions for the record.
Despite Wheeler’s allowance under the Federal Vacancies Act to serve 210 days as both the president’s nominee and acting administrator, in his responses to Carper’s questions for the record, Wheeler admitted that several EPA employees helped him prepare for his nomination hearing, while “EPA did not conduct any routine, planned civil enforcement inspections since Dec. 29, 2018, until the agency reopened after Jan. 25, 2019.”
“I’ll reiterate the sentiment I expressed on the day of Mr. Wheeler’s nomination hearing, which was held despite the government shutdown, some 203 days before the expiration of his tenure as acting administrator,” said Carper. “Simply put, giving the acting administrator a new title is neither more urgent nor more important than protecting the American people from contamination to our air, water and lands. It’s shameful that EPA would call on unpaid, furloughed employees to help with Mr. Wheeler’s nomination hearing while projects across the country that protect human health were halted due to the government shutdown.”
Throughout his responses, Wheeler remained firm in his refusal to accept various win-win opportunities for policies that strengthen protections for the environment and public health, while providing certainty for industry and stakeholders.
“I never expected that Mr. Wheeler and I would agree on policy — but I also didn’t expect that, when faced with ‘win-win’ policy opportunities that protect the environment and public health with support of regulated industry, Mr. Wheeler would fail to act responsibly each and every time,” said Carper. “From undermining the mercury emissions rule that industry has already complied with, to ignoring the automobile industry on strong clean car standards, to setting an enforceable drinking water standard for PFAS, I urge my colleagues to join me in urging Mr. Wheeler to reverse course on these misguided proposals and restore public confidence in EPA’s critical mission.”
In his written responses to Carper’s questions for the record:
— Wheeler doubled-down on a proposal to dismantle sensible fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards. Wheeler refused to accept or acknowledge the view of both EPA career staff and the automobile industry that the Department of Transportation analysis underpinning EPA’s so-called “SAFE Vehicles” proposal is fundamentally flawed. Wheeler also refused to provide a requested copy of July 20, 2018, briefing materials that were prepared for him by EPA career staff that make clear the DOT safety analysis is flawed.
— Wheeler sidestepped questions about the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule. Wheeler refused to admit that EPA’s actions put the foundation of the MATS rule in legal jeopardy. He did not provide any facts that countered concerns that utilities would likely turn off installed controls if the MATS rule is removed. Wheeler acknowledged EPA used outdated data to determine whether the standards are “appropriate and necessary,” but could not provide any additional information on what led him to believe the cancer risks, risks of birth defects and risks to children’s health were not sufficient enough to determine it was “appropriate and necessary” for EPA to regulate air toxic power plant emissions.
— Wheeler would not commit to supporting the ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which phases down HFCs and supports the next generation of technologies. In addition to evading the question, Wheeler refused to acknowledge that his Assistant Administrator for Office of Air and Radiation has repeatedly represented EPA in interagency meetings on Kigali ratification and has stated in those meetings that EPA opposes the submittal of the Kigali Amendment for ratification. Wheeler also refused to release EPA’s own analysis that shows the economic benefits of Kigali ratification.
— Wheeler an inadequate response on protecting both consumers and workers from exposure to methylene chloride. Wheeler acknowledged that this dangerous chemical can kill workers, but would not concede that EPA recently proposed a rule exempting workers from a methylene chloride ban.
— Wheeler failed to commit to setting a PFAS drinking water standard. The EPA under Acting Administrator Wheeler has not taken action on Perfluorinated Alkylated substances, or PFAS, dangerous chemicals contaminating drinking water supplies. In this nomination hearing, Wheeler declined to commit to setting a drinking water standard for PFAS.
Visit bit.ly/2UpMx58 to read Wheeler’s responses to Carper’s questions for the record.