Andrew Wheeler Confirmed as the New Head of Environmental Protection Agency | Citizens Against Government Waste

Andrew Wheeler Confirmed as the New Head of Environmental Protection Agency

The WasteWatcher

By a vote of 52 to 47, the Senate on Thursday voted to confirm Andrew R. Wheeler as the 15th Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Mr. Wheeler served as the Deputy Administrator from April to July 2018, and then served as Acting Administrator from July 2018 to February 2019.

The Administrator was confirmed at a time when the EPA is engaged in removing burdensome regulatory actions as well as reshaping how the agency crafts any new regulations. Under the Trump Administration, the agency has been attempting to make its decisions more transparent and discourage government overreach.

Under former Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency devised a “secret science” rule which would strengthen transparency in regulatory science by requiring scientists at the agency to publish the methodology they used to come to their findings.

Using this secret science rule, the EPA announced last year an agency-wide policy that would bar scientists receiving money through an EPA grant from sitting on any EPA scientific advisory boards. This move was made to strengthen scientific autonomy as a scientist receiving agency funds while serving on an advisory board could have their independence compromised by threats of having their taxpayer money taken away.

A coalition of environmental groups led by Physicians for Social Responsibility filed suit once the EPA issued its policy directive, alleging it violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA); however, the District of Columbia District Court last month dismissed this legal action against the policy change. Judge Trevor McFadden sided with the EPA against the environmental groups finding: “In Sum, Physicians have not plausibly alleged a conflict between the Directive and the conflict of interest statute and regulations.” The Judge was citing regulations regarding conflicts of interest that are published by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE).

The EPA has broad discretion to shape advisory committee membership, said Judge McFadden. “Neither the conflict of interest statute nor OGE regulations dictate who agency heads must appoint or retain under the broad discretion afforded by FACA.”

According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the EPA is one of the five most rulemaking entities along with the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Transportation, and Treasury. Together, these five agencies account for 11,359 proposed rules, or 43 percent of all proposed regulations currently under consideration by the federal government.