During a period of American history when the effects of climate change have become more than obvious thanks to the historic hurricane season in 2017, you would think officials in Washington D.C., including the president, would be sitting down at the table and coming to grips with some harsh truths. However, that’s not how the Trump administration rolls. As Americans focused their attention on Florida, Trump pulled a fast one and nominated the worst possible pick for an EPA position he could choose.
Trump nominated Bill Wehrum for assistant administrator for air and radiation at the EPA. Wehrum has a long, long history of not giving a crap about the environment and has experience as a corporate attorney who represented coal, oil, gas, and chemical companies – all companies that have an issue with EPA regulations. He also served in the Bush administration, and he broke regulations consistently.
‘Wehrum served for six years in the Bush administration as the acting head of EPA’s air office for two years and chief counselor to Jeff Holmstead, the head of that office, for four years. In these EPA capacities, Wehrum was substantially involved in decisions that broke the law repeatedly and egregiously.’
In fact, former President George W. Bush tried to put Wehrum in the same post back in 2006. However, the Senate wouldn’t confirm him because of his previous actions and disregard for the environmental law. In fact, during his temporary tenure, several lawsuits were brought against the Bush administration for moves to ignore Clean Air Act requirements. Out of those lawsuits, the courts ruled against the Bush administration 27 times.
‘Under Wehrum’s leadership, the Bush air program did not just lose clean air lawsuits frequently, it lost them badly, by violating the plain language of the law egregiously, again and again.’
In fact, in one decision, a judge referred to Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass to describe the EPA’s defense.
‘…[o]nly in a Humpty Dumpty world would Congress be required to use superfluous words while an agency could ignore an expansive word that Congress did use. We decline to adopt such a world-view.’
Now, of course, America is a Humpty Dumpty sort of world with a president such as Donald Trump. In fact, the EPA website issued a press release with praises from environmental leaders for Wehrum’s nomination.
Marcus Peacock, the EPA deputy administrator from 2005 to 2009 commented:
‘Bill Wehrum’s understanding of the Clean Air Act may be second to none. His desire to pull up his sleeves and actually make the Clean Air Act work as a practical matter is second to none.’
If understanding means circumventing to get around every rule, then Wehrum’s understanding is second to none.
Back in 2006, the New York Times wrote an editorial that was not kind to Wehrum.
‘Mr. Wehrum, who served as Mr. Holmstead’s deputy and doctrinal hit man, could make things worse. Opposition to his nomination has been building rapidly in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where the vote could break largely along party lines.’
Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) issued this statement back in 2006 on Wehrum.
‘I will oppose the nomination of Bill Wehrum when it comes before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for a vote tomorrow. I do so with regret, but unfortunately, this nominee leaves me no choice. During his five-year tenure with the EPA, Mr. Wehrum has worked to undermine the very same environmental protections that I have worked throughout my career to put in place.’
The move on Trump’s part shouldn’t be surprising. However, it’s more like a slap in the face especially for those who just lost their homes in Texas and Lousiana. Not to mention, there are millions in Florida facing devastation in the next few days thanks to Hurricane Irma. Every time Trump goes on television to express his sentiments and thoughts and prayers for those victims, he should be reminded he made this nomination.
Featured image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.