Wheeler has a chance to get the EPA back on track, will he take it?

The Environmental Protection Agency is finally free of former Administrator Scott Pruitt, but the damage he did while at the helm of the agency lingers. Under Pruitt’s leadership, the EPA veered wildly off course, betraying its mission to protect public health and the environment every step of the way. With Pruitt gone it’s time to right the ship and get the agency back on track. However, with Andrew Wheeler now leading the agency—and given his professional history—significant change in a positive direction is up in the air. 

August 1, 2018

Wheeler will testify today before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and will have to answer questions about how he intends to run the agency.

If the EPA is to return to its mission, several actions made under Pruitt’s leadership will have to be undone. The administration has taken aim at policies that create jobs, protect workers, grow the economy, and work to ensure that all Americans have access to clean air and water. The agency’s unwise and dangerous actions under this administration have put at risk the jobs of tens of thousands of Americans, have imperiled America’s competitive position as a technological leader, and have threatened the right of all Americans to have access to clean air and water.

Below are just a few of the numerous harmful actions taken by the EPA under the leadership of Pruitt. Wheeler should immediately withdraw these proposals in order to protect our environment, our workers, our economy, our communities, and our children.

SUCCESSFUL VEHICLE STANDARDS

The agency’s imminent release of a plan to roll back the nation’s world leading clean vehicle standards is just one example of a policy action that will do nothing but harm. The current strong fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards have wide ranging benefits, not the least of which is the significant savings that Americans have seen at the pump. Even beyond the obvious negative environmental impacts that would result from halting progress to make vehicles more efficient, such an action puts at risk jobs, investment, and our nation’s global competitiveness.

There are currently at least 288,000 Americans working to design and manufacture the parts and materials that make cars, trucks, and SUVs cleaner and more fuel efficient. Rolling back the nation’s current strong standards would strike a blow to demand for those parts and materials.

Rolling back strong vehicle standards would also hit the brakes on American investment and innovation. Under the current standards, automakers have made or promised $76 billion in investment at automotive plants here in the U.S., a much-needed reinvestment in America’s manufacturing industry. Without strong standards to drive innovation here in the U.S. the next generation of clean and efficient vehicle technology will be developed elsewhere and we will have missed out on the chance to lead globally and build jobs and manufacturing at home in a growing and profitable industry.

CHEMICAL DISASTER RULE

The administration’s deregulatory agenda hasn’t just put the jobs of Americans at risk; it has put the lives of Americans at risk. The EPA has proposed dangerous changes to the nation’s Chemical Disaster Rule, a rule that was put in place to keep workers, communities, and first responders safe from chemical disasters like the one at a Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California in 2012. A pipe at the refinery failed, releasing flammable vapors that ignited into a massive ball of fire just moments after 19 workers were able to escape. Some 15,000 people in the communities downwind of the plant sought medical attention for symptoms of exposure to the plume of smoke and toxic gases that spread over the northeastern Bay Area

EPA has estimated that roughly 177 million Americans live close enough to an industrial facility to be affected by a chemical accident, and that risk falls disproportionately on low-income and minority communities. Additionally, one in every three schoolchildren attends a school in the vulnerability zone for an industrial chemical accident. There are also countless workers at industrial facilities who walk into potentially dangerous situations every day and first responders who put their lives on the line whenever an accident does occur. It is shameful that with millions of lives on line, EPA has decided to gut a rule meant to protect them.

METHANE STANDARDS

Yet another important, common sense regulation in the current administration’s crosshairs is a rule that would limit methane emissions from new and modified sources in the oil and gas industry, protecting workers and creating jobs while reducing methane waste.

Leaks at oil and gas operations expose workers and local communities to methane pollution and other dangerous chemicals—like benzene, a known carcinogen. Reducing leaks protects workers and communities from this dangerous pollution while also creating jobs and helping the industry avoid the billions of dollars that lost and leaking natural gas costs each year. Nationwide, enough gas is lost and leaked to heat nearly seven million homes.

Low-cost solutions already exist to reduce these emissions. Implementing the kinds of practices and technologies required under the standards would create nearly 5,400 direct and indirect jobs annually in a variety of sectors. With full and continuing adoption of these leak reducing technologies and practices at new and modified oil and gas facilities, over 50,000 jobs would be created over the first decade.

Ignoring the health and environmental benefits—and the huge potential for job creation—the EPA is planning to weaken the standards.

MISSION NOT ACCOMPLISHED

The EPA’s mission is to protect the health of humans and the environment. Americans don’t need or want an EPA that dismantles rules that create jobs, have a positive impact on the economy, and keep them safe.

It’s time for the leadership at the EPA and in the Trump administration to correct the agency’s course and let it start to do its job again.