When Andrew Wheeler became acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator in July 2018, EPA was in turmoil. Seven months later, EPA is operating smoothly, effectively, and efficiently under Wheeler. The U.S. Senate would be foolish to drag its feet removing the “acting” tag and confirming Wheeler as EPA administrator.
Previous Administrator Scott Pruitt streamlined EPA procedures and effectively implemented many of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises. Pruitt, however, left himself open to ethical attacks from Democrats. None of the attacks on Pruitt proved to have merit, but sometimes even a hint of an opening is all that is necessary to invite a leftist and media feeding frenzy that can paralyze an agency.
Overseeing EPA these past several months, Wheeler has threaded the needle of protecting the environment while prioritizing common-sense stewardship over environmental radicalism. EPA worked effectively with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to soften Obama-era vehicle mileage restrictions, which threatened to create substantial increases in automobile costs while having no measurable impact on global temperature. EPA proposed the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, replacing the onerous and severely flawed Obama-era Clean Power Plan with regulations that reduce power plant emissions in a way that did not require the dismantling of existing U.S. power plants. Further, EPA proposed clean water rules that give state and local environmental agencies more control over their own waters and ended EPA’s ridiculous attempts to assert control over temporary puddles that form in corn fields just a few times each year after very heavy rains.
Nearly all Americans believe the prosperity we have achieved through a relatively free economy can support ongoing environmental protections. U.S. air quality already exceeds that of Europe, Asia, and every other nation with a comparable population density. American policymakers should continue to be wise and effective stewards of our environment.
Unfortunately, many on the Left would impose ineffective, unnecessary, top-down mandates that would reduce U.S. living standards. These mandates are a primary reason so many other nations have failed to achieve America’s environmental quality.
Radical environmentalists constantly attack the Trump administration, but aggregate emissions of the six principal pollutants were lower in 2017 — the first year of the Trump administration — than they were in any year of the Obama administration. There’s absolutely no reason to believe the Trump administration is falling short on protecting the environment.
A sitting president has the right to select his cabinet officers, subject to the consent of the U.S. Senate. Under Wheeler’s leadership, EPA has implemented President Trump’s campaign promise to end EPA overreach while simultaneously overseeing environmental improvements that have made the U.S. environment healthier than ever. It is time for the Senate to confirm Wheeler as EPA administrator.
James Taylor (JTaylor@heartland.org) is senior fellow for environment and climate policy at The Heartland Institute.