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America’s EPA preparing to appoint yet another anti-environment chief

The Energy 202: Senate Democrats warn EPA may be ‘afoul’ of law by prepping Wheeler for confirmation during shutdown, The Hour, Dino Grandoni, The Washington Post, January 11, 2019 A group of Senate Democrats says the Environmental Protection Agency may be violating spending laws by preparing the agency’s acting chief, Andrew Wheeler, for his confirmation hearing during a partial government shutdown.

Four members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee – Thomas Carper of Delaware; Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island; and Benjamin Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both of Maryland – sent a letter to the agency questioning whether it is improperly using resources to help Wheeler get ready for his confirmation hearing before them next Wednesday.

The move underscores the extent to which Senate Democrats are ready to fight President Donald Trump’s second pick to run the EPA after the former chief, Scott Pruitt, and now Wheeler have sought the reversal of many environmental regulations implemented under President Obama.

In response to the letter, the EPA told The Washington Post it is well within its rights under Justice Department guidelines to work toward getting the agency a Senate-confirmed leader.

The EPA is one of the agencies that isn’t receiving funding as the partial government shutdown drags into its 21st day over the standoff surrounding President Trump’s border wall. Only about 800 of the EPA’s 14,000 employees have been deemed essential to work through the shutdown. The vast majority of those remaining at work are “necessary to protect life and property.”

Only a handful of other employees – six top-level political appointees and a dozen others “necessary to the discharge of the President’s constitutional duties and powers” – are still allowed to work during a shutdown, according to the agency’s Dec. 31 contingency plan.

But according to the Democratic senators, five EPA employees have been involved in coordinating meetings with senators, who will have to approve Wheeler to serve as the agency’s permanent chief after President Trump this week formally tapped him for the position.

An EPA notary also worked to certify an ethics form for Wheeler, who worked for years as a lobbyist.

“It is difficult to understand how preparing you for next week’s confirmation hearing credibly falls within any of the categories listed in EPA’s Contingency Plan, particularly the category of employee that is ‘necessary to protect life and property,’ ” the senators wrote in their letter to Wheeler, sent Thursday.

“Using EPA resources in this manner may also run afoul of the Antideficiency Act,” they added, referring to the law requiring a federal agency’s expenditures not exceed the amount appropriated by Congress.

……… The EPA has been without a Senate-confirmed chief since the White House forced Pruitt to resign in July amid investigations into his ethical and managerial decisions.

While happy to see Pruitt gone, many environmentalists are fiercely oppose to Wheeler’s nomination after he spent years representing coal mining and nuclear energy firms in Washington.

They have long been critical of the EPA under both Pruitt and Wheeler for pursuing the rollback of Obama-era rules. During the shutdown, however, much of that work rewriting regulations has been put on pause.

But activists still take issue with Trump and Senate Republicans working to advance Wheeler’s nomination while other EPA employees are furloughed, such as those working to inspect factories for pollution or prepare cleanup plans for toxic waste sites.

“It’s a shocking waste of precious resources to spend any staff time preparing Andrew Wheeler’s nomination,” Collin O’Mara, president and chief executive of the National Wildlife Federation, said while calling for a delay in the hearing. https://www.thehour.com/news/article/The-Energy-202-Senate-Democrats-warn-EPA-may-be-13526124.php

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January 12, 2019 - Posted by | politics, USA

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