Senate confirms industry lawyer Wherum to lead EPA's air quality office
- The U.S. Senate yesterday voted 49-47 to confirm William Wehrum as assistant administrator for Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Air and Radiation, over the objections of environmentalists who point to a career spent suing the agency he will now join.
- Wehrum has sued the EPA 31 times while representing industry groups including the American Petroleum Institute. He will now serve as the nation's top air regulator, overseeing an office with authority over pollution rules, energy efficiency standards, climate change regulation and more.
- Wehrum previously worked in the OAR under President George W. Bush, but Democrats opposed to his nomination point out that more than two dozen regulations he worked on while previously at the agency were ultimately overturned in federal courts.
The Trump Administration is continuing a pattern of tapping industry insiders to lead federal agencies. Environmentalists seized Wherum's his past as a defender of the industries he will now regulate, but some Democrats have taken a different tack: Arguing he has shown an inability to write effective regulation.
According to The Hill, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) pointed out that 27 regulations he worked on while previously at the agency were overturned.
Wehrum is "essentially applying for the job he already had at EPA, and you would think that would be easy," said Carper. "But Mr. Wehrum's resume shows that a great deal of the work he did in his last job as Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation was not up to par."
Environmental groups focused on his past work with industry. According to Environmental Defense Fund, in 31 lawsuits aimed at the EPA he represented clients including the American Petroleum Institute, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, American Chemistry Council, and Utility Air Regulatory Group.
“Wehrum has sued EPA to tear down clear air and climate protections," said EDF Director of Regulatory Policy and Senior Attorney Tomás Carbonell. "And Wehrum’s record as both a private attorney and an official in President George W. Bush’s EPA demonstrates a repeated tendency to undermine vital protections for public health, clean air, and climate security.”
Wherum's confirmation drew praise from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, head of the agency and also with his own past of suing the agency while Attorney General of Oklahoma.
Wehrum "has a long history of public service, including over 30 years working in the environmental field," said Pruitt, adding that he will "help us implement our positive environmental agenda and administer programs that ensure that Americans have access to clean air."
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