Senate Confirms Chemicals Lawyer for EPA

17.11.2017 -

US president, Donald Trump, has engaged a new executor for his drive to reverse key environmental legislation implemented under his predecessor, Barack Obama. Just as the world climate conference wound down in Bonn, Germany, the US Senate by a vote of 49 to 47 confirmed the appointment of William Wehrum as the Environmental Protection Association’s assistant administrator for air and radiation.

According to reports, Wehrum’s firm represents clients in the petrochemical industry, including the American Petroleum Institute, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, the American Chemistry Council and the National Association of Manufacturers.

The new appointee will be the deputy of EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, who has already begun winding down or delaying key Obama-era regulations, including clean air legislation aimed at decreasing emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Pruitt, former attorney general of Oklahoma, has close ties to the oil and petrochemicals industry in the state.

Leading Republican Party members of the Senate environment committee that approved the appointment praised the new appointee’s expertise. Committee chairman, John Barrasso of Wyoming, said that the EPA’s air office “has been responsible for creating the agency’s most punishing regulations.

“Bill Wehrum’s three decades of environmental policy experience will be enormously helpful as he works to cut red tape, protect America’s air and allow our economy to grow,” Barrasso added.

On the other side of the aisle, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic committee member from Rhode Island, commented that Wehrum is “the latest in a series of industry insiders and science deniers appointed to key regulatory jobs at EPA.” In his confirmation hearing, the new assistant administrator is quoted as saying he didn’t have enough data to connect global warming to human activity.

In his speech on the Senate floor just before the vote, Whitehouse said: “It seems that at this point the key and only credential for appointment to the Environmental Protection Agency is that you are reliably pro-industry and reliably anti-public health.”

Also weighing in on the appointment, the environmental advocacy group Earthjustice commented that “it’s genuinely hard to fathom someone less suited to lead clean air efforts at the EPA.”

Other environmental organizations claim that Wehrum was largely responsible for the Bush administration’s record of repeatedly violating the US Clean Air Act and allowing more illegal emissions of armful air pollution than any EPA administration.