Saturday, June 3, 2023
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EPA Chief Pledges Clean Water & Air, Less Single-Issue ‘Virtue Signaling’

'members of former administrations and progressives in Congress have elevated single issue advocacy...'

(Headline USA) Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler on Thursday defended the Trump administration’s record on protecting the nation’s air and water.

He said Trump’s second term would bring a greater focus on pollution cleanups in disadvantaged communities and less emphasis on climate change.

In a speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the EPA’s founding, Wheeler said the agency was moving back toward an approach that had long promoted economic growth as well as a healthy environment and drawn bipartisan support.

“Unfortunately, in the past decade or so, some members of former administrations and progressives in Congress have elevated single issue advocacy – in many cases focused just on climate change – to virtue-signal to foreign capitals, over the interests of communities within their own country,” he said.

In his remarks, Wheeler said that if Trump is re-elected EPA would support “community-driven environmentalism” that emphasizes on-the-ground results such as faster cleanup of Superfund toxic waste dumps and abandoned industrial sites that could be used for new businesses.

He pledged to require cost-benefit analyses for proposed rules and to make public the scientific justification for regulations, saying it would “bring much needed sunlight into our regulatory process” and saying opponents “want decisions to be made behind closed doors.”

Critics say a science “transparency” policy EPA is considering would hamper development of health and safety regulations by preventing consideration of studies with confidential information about patients and businesses.

Wheeler spoke at the Richard Nixon library in Yorba Linda, California.

The Republican president established the EPA in 1970 amid public revulsion over smog-choked skies and waterways so laced with toxins they were unfit for swimming or fishing.

Some of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, were enacted during his administration.

Wheeler, an EPA and Senate staffer in the 1990s and a former coal industry lobbyist, said the agency had accomplished much. Lead gasoline, paint, asbestos and dioxins and hundreds of hazardous chemicals and compounds have been banned, he said.

“America’s environment today is cleaner than it’s ever been in our lifetimes,” he said, adding that during the Trump administration, air pollution has fallen while Superfund cleanups have accelerated and EPA programs have pumped $40 billion into clean-water infrastructure upgrades.

But the agency has become too bureaucratic and confrontational, he said — delaying permits needlessly, issuing conflicting orders to businesses and communities, and backing policies that worsen some environmental problems to solve others.

East Coast governors have blocked natural gas pipelines in the name of fighting climate change but the result has been more gas imports from Russia, Wheeler said.

He blamed California’s support of greater reliance on renewable energy and less on gas for rolling power blackouts that had resulted in sewage spills.

“Instead of confusing words with actions, and choosing empty symbolism over doing a good job, we can focus our attention and resources on helping communities help themselves,” Wheeler said.

McCarthy and five other former EPA chiefs whose terms date as far back as the Reagan administration issued a statement this month saying Trump had abandoned the agency’s “core mission of protecting human health and the environment.”

“Actions during the Trump administration have further decreased public confidence in the agency’s credibility, undercut its historic dedication to high ethical standards, and affected employee morale,” they said in a joint statement.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.

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