Scott Pruitt: A defender of coal, the new guardian of the US environment | Society

When Scott Pruitt left the leadership of the Environmental Protection Agency last July Environment (EPA, in its acronym in English), environmentalists sighed with relief. The denial of climate change took a step to the side lurked by several investigations related to the waste of public funds and accusations of personal favors. That was when Andrew Wheeler appeared on the scene. The number two from the agency since 2017 he took control of interim form, and the last week of February the Senate approved his official appointment. However, in his eight months as acting administrator, Wheeler, a exlobbist of the coal industry and defender of fossil fuels, has already discouraged the optimists. "Going from a train crash to a burning house does not give us any comfort," said Bob Deans of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Wheeler, 54, believes in climate change. However, their actions leave much to be desired by those who are concerned about the future of the planet. At the confirmation hearing held last January in Congress, the lawyer born in Ohio made it clear that he intends to continue the repeal of the environmental regulations of the era of former President Barack Obama.

In 2009 Wheeler abandoned politics to play from the field of the private sector. Among the main clients of Faegre Baker Daniels, the law firm to which he joined, was Murray Energy Corporation, self-proclaimed the largest coal mining company in the United States. Robert Murray, the company's president, fought energetically against the Obama Administration's attempts to reduce carbon emissions and strengthen public and environmental health laws. He blamed the former president of "virtually destroying" the industry with his measures. But the demand for coal began to recede when renewables made their way into the market.

Before advising fossil fuel entrepreneurs, Wheeler became a political animal. He began his professional career specializing in environmental law at the agency he currently chairs, as a special assistant in the toxic office during the administration of President George H.W. Bush. In the various positions he held during those years he was characterized by reducing government regulations on industries that generate greenhouse gases. This experience in the Capitol made him known from Washington, where they say he has more friends than enemies.

He also worked for Republican Senator James Inhofe. The congressman from Oklahoma is recognized for having said that the overwhelming scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change is "the biggest deception" that has been said. When Wheeler was asked at the Senate confirmation hearing about his stance on the climate phenomenon, he carefully moved away from his former boss: "I believe that man has an impact on climate," he said, "but what is not understood completely is what the impact is. "

Wheeler, a warrior against environmental "regulatory exaggeration", has promised to exercise his office with humility. "I will address the career staff and ask them for advice and I will listen to them," he told the Environment and Public Works Commission during his hearing. But apparently his words do not inspire confidence because, as on the environmental level, the damage is already done.


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