Sustainability Column: The Fall of the EPA

Delaney Pals, Maroon-News Staff

Scott Pruitt, who is currently the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is famous for his proposed environmental regulation rollbacks and for being a known climate change denier. However, his tenure as the head of the EPA might not last much longer. Pruitt is under scrutiny for having high profile conflicts of interest and wasting taxpayer dollars with frivolous expenditures, as well as many other controversies. His most recent scandal, regarding his D.C. apartment, shows that Pruitt has questionable ethics at best. He rented an apartment, at a substantially discounted rate, from a past political donor who happens to be an energy lobbyist, which could have a significant influence on his work at the EPA. 

Multiple lawmakers have called for Pruitt’s resignation, including Nancy Pelosi who said, “EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s tenure has been a part of the Trump Administration’s culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence. Pruitt must resign.” 

However, Andrew Wheeler is currently in the process of being voted in as Pruitt’s Deputy Administrator. This vote is set to take place later this week, having been stalled since October of 2017. If Andrew Wheeler becomes Pruitt’s deputy administrator, then he would be the No. 2 official within the EPA and this would be yet another detrimental hit to the integrity of the agency and progress of sustainability in the U.S.

If Wheeler is confirmed as Pruitt’s No. 2, Pruitt’s rollback and pro-coal agenda will still have a stronghold in the EPA, regardless of Pruitt’s future with the agency. Andrew Wheeler, similar to Pruitt, is a climate change denier. He has been quoted as saying, “I believe that man has an impact on the climate, but what’s not completely understood is what the impact is.” He disregards scientific knowledge and argues that the climate is exclusively changing due to natural causes. Wheeler is also a coal lobbyist for Murray Energy, advocating for federal bailouts of coal power plants. Economically speaking, federal bailouts for coal power plants make zero sense. Not only is coal one of the most expensive fuels at the moment, but, it is also one of the most environmentally damaging. A federal bailout of the coal industry is the opposite direction we should be going in as a country and would cost the nation hundreds of millions of dollars. If Wheeler is confirmed and Pruitt is ousted, mayhem will still proceed with Wheeler serving as acting administrator of the EPA. 

It is exciting to see the desire to get rid of Pruitt and, of course, Pruitt does need to go. He should have never been head of the EPA in the first place. However, if Wheeler is confirmed as No. 2, his track record shows that he will reinforce the same ideals as Pruitt and depending on how long it would be to nominate a new head, this could be detrimental. 

In order to get the EPA back into the hands of people who actually care about the environment and understand the science of climate change and the need to shift to clean energy, Pruitt needs to be ousted and Wheeler should not be confirmed as Deputy Administrator. Otherwise, there is the potential of Pruitt, whom Trump has confidence in, staying in office and also getting a right hand man who supports his agenda almost entirely. We need to pressure our senators to vote against confirming Wheeler, as well as show our desire for an EPA devoid of climate deniers. 

Contact Delaney Pals at [email protected].