EPA’s Air Pollution Chief, Bill Wehrum, recently announced his plans to resign. This announcement comes just two months after the House Committee on Energy & Commerce started investigating him for potential federal ethics rules violations. Wehrum’s conduct came into question when Wehrum allegedly provided conflicting information to Congress about his ties to his old law firm and the Utility Air Regulatory Group, a lobbyist group that fights Clean Air Act regulations.
Before joining EPA, Wehrum worked as a lawyer and lobbyist for power companies seeking to scale back air pollution rules. His client list included the Utility Air Regulatory Group. In his position at EPA, Wehrum met with some of the Utility Air Regulatory Group’s members, which might be a violation of the federal ethics rules that require that he recuse himself if they were his former clients. Given his “industry first” attitude that has loosened air pollution rules, it’s not a surprise that people question Wehrum’s motives.
Wehrum’s departure is definitely something to celebrate. He looked out for industry to the detriment of human health and the environment by wreaking havoc on environmental regulations. During his one and a half years at EPA, Wehrum championed industry, rolling back the Obama Administration’s farthest-reaching air policies. Most recently, he finalized the so-called Affordable Clean Energy rule, which helps the coal industry by reducing carbon emissions by less than half of what experts say is necessary to avoid a climate change catastrophe. Wehrum also played a role in relaxing tailpipe emission standards and changing how EPA measures the health effects of air pollution. In the Chicago-area, he showed a complete disregard for the health of communities affected by ethylene oxide emissions from Sterigenics by agreeing that it is possible for Sterigenics to reopen if they implement stricter pollution controls. It’s certainly not a shame to see Wehrum leave!
But, who’s next? EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced that Anne Idsal, the second-in-command of the Office of Air and Radiation, would temporarily take Wehrum’s place. She is not exactly an upgrade. When she joined EPA, Idsal indicated she wasn’t convinced of humans’ role in climate change. Given her views on climate change and that she doesn’t have a technical background, it is not difficult to imagine the regulatory chaos that will ensue in EPA’s Air Division with Idsal at the helm.
The constant stream of questionable appointees begs the question of how the country and the earth will recover from this administration. It’s time for an appointee that follows EPA’s mission and protects human and environmental health!
Blog written by Dayna Smith and Shawn Collins.