Thurs 2/28: Say “NO” to Andrew Wheeler, the once and future coal lobbyist nominee for the EPA.

(Graphic from opinionfront.com)

Action Update – Let’s use our power of oversight to hem this guy in.

He’s in, on a basic party-line vote with only Sen. Collins crossing the aisle. Our EPA, as well as the GOP itself, are now completely owned by the fossil-fuel industry (read “Background” below). So where do we go now? RESIST, of course! We propose a serious email to all your legislators.

New minimal email:

Until we are in a position to remove Andrew Wheeler, coal-industry mole and climate-change denier, from his new position at the EPA and repair the damage he’s causing, we want you to commit to using our power of Congressional oversight to investigate the following issues:

Corruption: Wheeler, after it was first rumored he would be considered for the EPA last March, raised funds for Republican senators on the committee that makes the preliminary decision on confirming appointments to the agency.  (intercept)

Industry collusion: Why was Wheeler’s confirmation vote pushed through prior to the court-mandated release of tens of thousands of documents showing industry contacts with Wheeler and Wherum, due to the Sierra Club’s FOIA lawsuit victory? Wheeler has already been accused of this type of ethics violation per Rep. Donald Beyer’s letter to the Office of Government Ethics in 2018. 

Environmental justice: Recognition of the civil rights violations caused by the EPA’s reduction of staff for enforcement activities against companies with polluted sites in minority and high-poverty neighborhoods. The decimation of EPA staff was a specific request of Bob Murray’s infamous wishlist to the Trump administration, presented at a meeting with his then-lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler. Small world! The House Energy and Commerce Committee has recently looked at this issue, but since declining enforcement has created a system of defacto racism, this situation must be examined by both the House Ethics and House Oversight and Reform committees as well. (Report from EnvironmentalIntegrity.org) Env. Integrity Project Director Eric Schaeffer, a former EPA civil enforcement director, states that “Those cutbacks are leaving communities – including those with high poverty levels and African-American or Latino neighborhoods – exposed to public health risks, while letting polluters off the hook for serious violations of the law.” 

Transparency: Although Wheeler’s calendar is public, not all the interests of parties listed would be known to the public. We propose the addition of a weekly chart showing his activities, both meetings and phone calls, catagorized into percentages by industry-related groups, government officials and environmental groups.

Yes, I would like a response as to what actions you will be taking.”

Contact
Rep. Julia Brownley: email
or Rep. Salud Carbajal:
email.
Not your representatives?: https://whoismyrepresentative.com

Background

Andrew Wheeler

Climate change is the biggest threat to the planet, the World Economic Forum said in a sweeping catalog of global risks.”
So who are we gonna call? Someone who cares about the future of our planet? Someone who believes in the science of global warming? How about just someone actually committed to the “Environmental Protection” in the title?

Um, no. Rolling down the chute is Andrew Wheeler, who was, until mid-2017, the former and effectively present coal lobbyist for Murray Energy, and its owner and CEO, Bob Murray. He lobbied the U.S. Department of the Interior to open portions of the Bears Ears National Monument to uranium mining and worked as a legislative aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), a notable climate change denier who actually wrote a book called “The Greatest Hoax”, which described the teaching of climate science curriculum in schools as “brainwashing”. Wheeler also served as the vice president of the Washington Coal Club, a federation of more than 300 coal producers, lawmakers, business leaders, and policy experts dedicated to saving our dirtiest fossil fuel. (something John Oliver takes exception with…)

During his time trying to erase the memory of his inept and corrupt predecessor, Scott Pruitt, he has permitted some small wins for environmentalists: being nicer to EPA employees, reversing Pruitt’s removal of a cap on the sale of polluting “glider trucks” and deciding that minors really shouldn’t be exposed to restricted-use pesticides.

But that’s all small potatoes to the main meal, which is coal magnate and CEO of Murray Energy Corp. Bob Murray’s to-do list for the destruction of our most important environmental protections in favor of saving coal, which he discussed at a secretive private audience with Wheeler, at that time a principal at Faegre Baker Daniel Consulting and lobbyist for Murray Energy, Mark Maddox of the US Dept. of Energy, and Secretary of Energy and dance star Rick Perry. This is the white glove service that rich people and corporate CEO’s like Bob expect from their lobbyists government.

image.png

(from Inthetimes) A previously undisclosed March 29 meeting with Wheeler and Robert Murray, where the latter gives Rick Perry a wishlist. Six months later, Perry unveiled a his own version of Murray’s Grid Resiliency plan.

The list included the following must-haves from Bob. Each one is noted as to how far the Trump administration has progressed in repaying one of their favorite donors. As this article in Mother Jones states, Andrew Wheeler has almost completed his former coal client’s wish list.

  • “The so-called Clean Power Plan must be eliminated…”(in progress)
  • “Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule” –  essentially a bailout for coal and nuclear, requiring utilities pay coal plants to operate with large stocks of coal on hand for disasters. (called out as the bail-out it was and rejected)
  • Withdraw and suspend the implementation of the so-called “endangerment finding” under the Clean Air Act for greenhouse gases. (Wheeler currently engaged in weakening mercury rules)
  • Eliminate the 30% percent production tax credit for windmills and solar panels in electricity generation (Pruitt tried, the tax bill kept them)
  • Withdraw from the illegal United Nations COP 21 Paris Climate Accord (in progress)
  • End the electric utility maximum achievable technology and ozone regulations. (in progress)
  • Fund the development of certain clean coal technologies (in progress)
  • Overhaul the bloated and politicalized Mine Safety and Health Administration.
  • Cut the staff of the US EPA in at least half (in progress)
  • Overturn the recently enacted cross-state air pollution rule. (Senate introduced legislation)
  • Obtain legislation to fund both the retiree medical care and pensions for all of America’s United Mine Workers of America. (McConnell stopping it) (Koch take)
  • Revise the arbitrary coal mine dust regulation of the Mine Safety and Health Administration of the Dept. of Labor and the pattern of violations rule. (asked for it but “NO”)
  • “Appoint justices to the Supreme Court who will follow our Constitution and laws.” (done)
  • Members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must be replaced. (done)
  • Members of the Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors must be replaced. (in progress)
  • Replace the members of the National Labor Board with people who will fairly consider the employer’s position and needs and not automatically accede to the unions. (in progress)

Wheeler’s smarter than Pruitt. He’s not trying to eliminate protections head on, which causes court cases. He concentrates on weakening regulations until they are no longer effective. Along with Bob’s marching orders above, he’s reducing requirements on the disposal of extremely toxic coal ash as well as seriously weakening of our clean water regulations, setting the stage for coal ash, as well as other pollutants to reach our wells and water glasses. He’s also recommended freezing miles-per-gallon standards for cars and light trucks after the 2020 model year and preventing California and other states from setting tougher standards.

His agency’s policing of environmental violations over the past two years has dwindled, reached 10-year lows in the fiscal year 2017. The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, an advocacy group formed by university researchers to counter what they see as the Trump administration’s rejection of science has concluded from employee interviews, that the agency is deliberately turning away from upholding the law.

The administration has strongly sent a message, to the folks who do enforcement, that they should cut back on their role,” says Marianne Sullivan, a public-health professor at William Paterson University in New Jersey and an EDGI volunteer who conducted the interviews. “There are declining resources. There’s much more deference to industry. What it adds up to is large decreases in enforcement across these really important programs that protect the health of all Americans.”

So, just email your senators and just say no to Bob Murray Andrew Wheeler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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