Trump Parrots Fox & Friends Segment Claiming Climate Crisis is ‘Fake News,’ ‘Fake Science’

In his latest Fox & Friends live-tweeting session, President Donald Trumpapplauded former Greenpeace president Patrick Moore for saying the planet’s climate crisis is “fake news” and “fake science.” This comes after Trump echoed a segment of the show where one of his former campaign staffers called on Jews to abandon the Democratic Party.

Moore was invited onto Fox & Friends because he called Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes (D-NY) a “pompous little twit” for her latest defense of the Green New Deal. Sure enough, he used his segment to call the proposal “completely ridiculous” and push his denial of climate change.

Moore went on to bash the majority of the scientific community for their concerns about climate change, saying Greenpeace has been “hijacked by the extreme left” to sell “sensationalism, misinformation, and fear.” He also suggested that global warming could be a good thing, saying that burning fossil fuels and releasing more greenhouse gases will “fertilize” the planet, resulting in a net positive for the environment.

As it were, Greenpeace has responded to Trump, saying that contrary to Moore’s claim, he did not co-found the organization, and they essentially renounced him ever since he started operating as a lobbyist and an advocate for polluters and corporate energy industries.

It’s worth noting the Trump Administration released a report from multiple federal agencies last year that determined global climate change could have extreme long-term consequences for the United States. Then again, Trump has made his skepticism of man-made climate change perfectly clear in the past, so his parroting Moore could just be confirmation bias on his part.

[Mediaite]

Trump praises his Scottish golf course for its beauty and diplomatic links with UK

President Donald Trump’s seemingly out-of-the blue praise Saturday for his Aberdeen golf course in Scotland — and its purported contribution to British relations with the United States — comes only days after he was ordered to pay the legal fees in his losing effort to an offshore wind farm in sight of the course.

“Very proud of perhaps the greatest golf course anywhere in the world,” he tweeted. “Also, furthers U.K. relationship!”

Trump’s tweets — which reach 59 million people — will likely have less impact on the British foreign office than his golf business, although he says he has stepped down from running the Trump Organization to avoid potential conflict of interests.

Trump’s relations with locals near the Aberdeen course have long been strained. Environmental and planning authorities objected to plans for an additional 18-hole course as a threat to the delicate 14-mile sand dunes systems and sought to block a project to develop 550 luxury homes and lodges near the course.

The Herald Scotland newspaper said local critics view Trump as an “international pariah” with a brand so toxic it can only damage the reputation of Aberdeenshire. 

Trump, however, had his own concerns about disturbing the North Sea coastline when he strongly opposed the construction of 11 offshore turbines that he said would spoil the view from his course at Menie, about 9 miles north of Aberdeen.

“I am not thrilled — I want to see the ocean, I do not want to see windmills,” he said in 2006, according to the BBC.

In 2015, he lost that battle over the wind project, which began generating power last July. 

While losing on the merits of the case, Trump took a second hit last week when the Court of Session ruled that Trump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd. should also pay legal fees over the lawsuit, the BBC reports.

In his tweet, Trump, perhaps, was also touting the course as part of a current two-week recruitment drive to hire 100 additional staff for the resort.

The course, which Trump built from scratch on 1,800 acres in 2005, has proved to be a divisive force within the local community. Legal challenges have sought to block the development of the second course as well as the sprawling housing development nearby that was to include luxury homes and resort lodges. The Scotsman newspaper reported last week that the Trump Organization has quietly agreed to relocate some of the lodges.

Sarah Malone, executive vice-president of Trump International, told Scotland on Sunday that such readjustments are “standard practice” and that the organization is “entirely satisfied and confident in our plans.”

The Aberdeen course, one of Trump’s biggest investments, lost $4.5 million in 2017, its fourth consecutive year in the red, The Washington Post reported.

Trump, whose mother was born in Scotland, has proved a magnet for protesters when he visits his Scottish properties. Thousands of demonstrators turned out for Trump’s appearance at his other Scottish club, Turnberry, last July, including a paraglider bearing a banner that read “Trump well below par,” The Herald reports.

[USA Today]

Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary

President Trump is picking David Bernhardt, a former energy lobbyist, to be the Interior Department’s next secretary. “I am pleased to announce that David Bernhardt, Acting Secretary of the Interior, will be nominated as Secretary of the Interior,” Trump tweeted Monday. Bernhardt, whose past clients include oil companies and others with business before the Interior Department, will lead an agency that oversees about 500 million acres as well as the energy production on that land. He became the agency’s deputy secretary in 2017 and has led the department on an interim basis since former Secretary Ryan Zinke resigned amid ethics scandals in January. In the weeks since Zinke’s departure, Bernhardt has risen to the top of the list as the most likely candidate Trump would choose for the post. “David has done a fantastic job from the day he arrived, and we look forward to having his nomination officially confirmed!” Trump will have to send Bernhardt’s nomination to the Senate, where a majority of senators will have to approved him. “It’s a humbling privilege to be nominated to lead a department whose mission I love, to accomplish the balanced, common sense vision of our President,” Bernhardt said in a statement Monday. The department has 70,000 employees in various agencies overseeing federal land, offshore drilling, endangered species and American Indian affairs, among other duties. As deputy secretary, Bernhardt, a Colorado native, worked hand in hand with Zinke on his oil and gas leasing agenda and took the lead on many others, including the administration’s push to drill in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the rollback of a number of Endangered Species Act regulations. In the past he’s called the ESA an “unnecessary regulatory burden.” The rule proposal he helped roll out in July would make it easier to delist an endangered species and would withdraw a policy that offered the same protections for threatened species as for endangered species unless otherwise specified. Bernhardt has worked at Interior in various capacities, including solicitor during the George W. Bush administration. He has also had multiple stints at the lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, representing clients including Eni Petroleum, Sempra Energy, Halliburton Energy Services, Targa Energy, Noble Energy and the Westlands Water District. Under ethics standards, he has recused himself from matters involving so many former clients that he carries a card with him listing the recusals. Environmental groups immediately denounced Bernhardt’s nomination Monday. “The ethical questions surrounding David Bernhardt and his commitment to pandering to oil, coal, and gas executives make former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke look like a tree-hugging environmentalist in comparison. And Ryan Zinke was a disaster,” Vicky Wyatt, lead climate campaigner for Greenpeace USA, said in a statement. “We already let Bernhardt do enough damage to our federal lands and waters as deputy secretary —  we have to stop him before he destroys some of this country’s best ideas including the Endangered Species Act.” “David Bernhardt’s nomination is an affront to America’s parks and public lands,” said Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, a conservation group that has been vocally critical of the Trump administration. “As an oil and gas lobbyist, Bernhardt pushed to open vast swaths of public lands for drilling and mining. As deputy secretary, he was behind some of the worst policy decisions of Secretary Zinke’s sad tenure, including stripping protections for imperiled wildlife.” The industries Interior regulates have largely been supportive of Bernhardt. “We have always been supportive of acting Secretary Bernhardt. We supported his nomination and would support him if the president decides to nominate him to be secretary,” Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, told reporters Monday. “In these transitional phases, it’s important that we have strong political leadership, and I think he’s demonstrated that leadership in his time as acting secretary.” Supporters say Bernhardt’s agenda on fossil fuels would likely continue in the same vein as Zinke. “Bernhardt possesses an impressive depth of experience at the Department and knowledge of Interior issues. His selection as secretary will assure that important energy and conservation policies will not miss a beat in the transition,” said Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, which represents offshore oil and wind companies.

“Bernhardt understands that conservation and enhancement of natural resources can and does occur in conjunction with development of natural resources for energy — both on and offshore,” he said. Bernhardt’s nomination will go to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for an initial hearing, and then a vote before the full Senate. That panel’s leaders, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), both voted to confirm him to the deputy secretary position in 2017. Only three other Democrats — Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) — voted for him, and Heitkamp and Donnelly lost reelection last year. Republicans hold 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats, so Bernhardt’s confirmation is likely to go through. One of the most recent controversies surrounding Bernhardt involved the recent partial government shutdown, which furloughed most of Interior’s workforce. He drew criticism after announcing the National Park Service would pull from their entrance fee revenue coffers in order to pay for the clean-up and maintenance of parks left up to the public during the shutdown. “We must provide opportunities for people to access and enjoy our wonderful parks, and we must do so in a way that ensures the same opportunity for future generations to enjoy,” he wrote. Environmentalists, park rangers and politicians alike questioned the legality of the move under the National Park Service Organic and Antideficiency Acts, the main pieces of legislation that govern federal parks and shutdown procedures respectively. The NPS is currently conducting a legal review of that decision. Bernhardt also was criticized for bringing certain furloughed workers back to work on oil and natural gas drilling permits, offshore drilling and drilling in the Alaska refuge. The House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee for Interior, led by Chairwoman Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), will hold a hearing this week on the work that Interior did during the shutdown and whether it was legal. Bernhardt floated to the top of a crowded field of potential replacements for Zinke. The candidates included many current or former Republican politicians, according to people familiar with the process, such as ex-Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), ex-Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R) and ex-Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).

[The Hill]

Trump’s pick to chair new climate panel once said CO2 has been maligned like “Jews under Hitler”

The Pentagon and several federal agencies have repeatedly warned over the years that climate change is a threat to national security. Yet the White House is reportedly convening a panel to question it anew.

The Washington Post, citing a National Security Council (NSC) discussion paper it obtained, reports that White House staff are preparing an executive order for President Donald Trump’s signature that would establish a Presidential Committee on Climate Security to be chaired by a notorious climate change denier.

That man, NSC senior director William Happer, argued on CNBC in 2014 that “the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”

John Whitehouse of Media Matters dredged up the video

Happer’s views have gotten no less extreme since then. When he was under consideration for the role of Trump’s science adviser in early 2017, Happer sent an email to a Jezebel reader asserting that the “demonization of CO2” “really differs little from the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Soviet extermination of class enemies or ISIL slaughter of infidels.”

Media Matters has previously detailed how Happer, a retired Princeton professor who is not trained as a climate scientist, has tried — unsuccessfully — to conceal the fact that oil interests have directly funded his “research.” And as a recent paper in Nature Climate Change noted, the fossil fuel industry has long been involved in campaigns in US politics “aiming to refute, confuse and obstruct acceptance of the reality of climate change,” using scientists just like Happer to spread misinformation.

The Trump administration keeps trying to muddy the waters about climate science

The Post’s report about the White House’s new panel is the latest indication that the Trump administration is trying to actively mislead the public on the well-established science of climate change.

As Vox’s Umair Irfan and Alex Ward have reported, many agencies in the executive branch of Trump’s own government have been warning the president and the American people of the severe threats of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

“The impacts and costs of climate change are already being felt in the United States, and changes in the likelihood or severity of some recent extreme weather events can now be attributed with increasingly higher confidence to human-caused warming,” according to the National Climate Assessment, released in November.

Asked about the National Climate Assessment by a reporter in November, Trump flatly said, “I don’t believe it.”

Last month, the Pentagon released a report detailing the national security threatposed by climate change. Weeks later, the intelligence community released its annual consensus World Threat Assessment. The document echoes the Pentagon’s finding that climate change is a major threat:

Climate hazards such as extreme weather, higher temperatures, droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, sea level rise, soil degradation, and acidifying oceans are intensifying, threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security. Irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats will undermine the economic benefits they provide, worsened by air, soil, water, and marine pollution.

The NSC discussion paper obtained by the Post about the new panel suggests it would be created with an eye toward muddying the waters about the Pentagon and intelligence community’s findings. Though the paper acknowledges that a number of federal government reports have concluded climate change is a major threat, it goes on to claim “these scientific and national security judgments have not undergone a rigorous independent and adversarial scientific peer review to examine the certainties and uncertainties of climate science, as well as implications for national security.”

Given Happer’s views, there’s little doubt that he’ll indulge Trump if he wants to use the panel to deny the well-established science of climate change. In doing so, the consequences are grave: He’d further imperil the United States and future generations everywhere.

[Vox]

Trump calls to save coal plant supplied by major supporter

His missive came just days before the TVA board is slated to vote on the future of Paradise Unit 3, a 49-year-old coal plant that the federally owned utility has said would be too expensive to keep operating.

The 1,150-megawatt plant gets the bulk of its coal from a subsidiary of Murray Energy, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. Robert Murray, the CEO of the mining company, is a major Trump supporter who has personally lobbied the president to take other actions to help the ailing coal industry, particularly in regions where he sells coal. The White House has shelved a proposed coal bailout plan that has been among Murray’s top priorities, although the Trump administration has rolled back numerous other environmental rules the magnate has criticized.

Murray is a prolific GOP donor, and his company gave $1 million from his company to the Trump-supporting super PAC America First Action in the last election cycle, among other big contributions. Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who is awaiting Senate confirmation, lobbied for Murray Energy among other clients before joining the Trump administration, including joining the CEO and other company officials in a 2017 meeting with Energy Secretary Rick Perry to discuss Murray’s policy proposals. Wheeler has said he did not write the action plan Murray presented to the Trump administration.

In a statement, Murray said he has not lobbied the White House to intervene on behalf of the plant.

“We have had no such contact,” Murray said in a statement. “In the interest of the TVA ratepayers, the remaining coal-fired unit at the Paradise Plant must remain in operation. The power will be more reliable and lower cost.”

Murray later acknowledged in an interview that he has responded to several members of Congress who have asked about “the devastation” that would be caused by the loss of the Paradise coal plant, and he said that Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin asked about the plant when the two met late last week to discuss another subject. But he told POLITICO he had nothing to do with the president’s tweet.

[Politico]

Update

Trump failed. The TVA closed the plant.

Trump again confuses climate with weather in tweet attacking Amy Klobuchar

Donald Trump attacked Amy Klobuchar on Sunday, in a tweet that appeared to demonstrate a lack of understanding about climate change.

The Democratic senator had announced that she was running for the presidency earlier that day, in a speech delivered as snow fell around her in Minneapolis

“As your president, I will look you in the eye. I will tell you what I think. I will focus on getting things done. That’s what I’ve done my whole life,” she told a crowd of people gathered at a park along the Mississippi River.

The Minnesota senator added that on her first day as president she would have the US rejoin the Paris climate agreement, which Mr Trump withdrew the country from in 2017.

“Well, it happened again,” the president wrote on Twitter.

“Amy Klobuchar announced that she is running for President, talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures.”

“Bad timing. By the end of her speech she looked like a Snowman(woman)!”

Conflating weather and climate change is a common error and Nasa has a webpage dedicated to distingushing the two.

“The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time,” it states.

“Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere ‘behaves’ over relatively long periods of time.”

Mr Trump has a long history of spreading incorrect information about climate change, despite the wealth of information available.

His tweet came just three weeks after another one in which he discussed forecasts of heavy snow.

“Wouldn’t be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now,” the 72-year-old said. 

Mr Trump also once claimed that climate change was a Chinese hoax, invented to hurt US exports.

Ms Klobuchar responded to his mockery on Twitter by saying that science supported her policies.

“Science is on my side,” she wrote, addressing the president. 

[The Independent]

Trump let Ryan Zinke keep his job until after he threw Christmas party for lobbyists

President Donald Trump reportedly wanted outgoing-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke fired weeks ago but the White House allowed him to keep his job until after he threw a Christmas bash at his office for lobbyists and cronies.

According to a report in the Washington Post, the White House put some of the blame for the midterm election debacle, that saw the Democrats seize control of the House, on Zinke’s scandal problems.

The reports states, “Administration officials concluded weeks ago that Zinke was the Cabinet member most vulnerable to congressional investigations once Democrats took control of Congress in January. “

The White House reportedly gave Zinke the opportunity to resign or be fired, and Josh Dawsey at the Post said Zinke managed to convince them to let him last out until almost the end of the year, allowing him to throw a holiday party.

“The secretary’s final public appearance was Thursday night at his Christmas party, which he told White House staffers he wanted to have before his dismissal. He invited lobbyists and conservative activists to his executive suite, where he posed for photos in front of a large stuffed polar bear wearing a Santa cap, according to an attendee,” reports the Post.

You can read the whole report here.

[Raw Story]

EPA announces new plan to weaken Obama-era greenhouse gas rule

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Thursday plans to roll back a 2015 rule that put strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions coming from coal plants — a tweak the agency is labeling closer to “reality.”

The change will significantly weaken the Obama-era rule in part as an effort to help jump-start new coal plant construction in the U.S.

The proposed revisions to the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) would no longer mandate that plants meet the strict emissions goals of achieving emissions equal to or less than what plants would have achieved with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

The Obama administration at the time saw CCS as a feasible future technology that was important to pulling carbon out of coal plant emissions at their source. Today the technology is not generally used commercially and is pricey.

EPA acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler called the Obama administration’s focus on CCS “disingenuous.”

“Their determination was disingenuous. They knew the tech was not adequately demonstrated, which is what was required under the law. This rule sets high yet achievable standards rooted in reality,” Wheeler said at a press conference at EPA headquarters.

EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum called the old rule “wishful thinking.”

“Today’s actions reflect our approach of defining new, clean coal standards by data and the latest technological information, not wishful thinking,” he said in a statement. “U.S. coal-fired power will be a part of our energy future and our revised standards will ensure that the emissions profiles of new plants continue to improve.”

The new changes would limit coal plant emissions to 1,900 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour produced, a level they say can be met with modern technology including efficient boilers.

The original rule had set the limit at 1,400 pounds.

Despite the higher level of carbon being allowed into the air under EPA’s latest change, Wheeler told reporters that their study found it would “not result in significant [carbon dioxide] changes or costs.”

When asked whether the new rule means the EPA is ignoring the Trump administration’s latest report that declared that effects from climate change would result in unavoidable economic harm to the U.S, Wheeler pushed back.

“We’re not ignoring the government report. We’re still looking at the government report ourselves. We just got a briefing on it this morning from some of our career scientists,” he said.

The report was released two weeks ago.

The EPA chief said the new rule would actually be beneficial to human health because it would provide cheaper electricity to households.

“Having cheap electricity helps human health. If you have cheaper electricity, people are able to afford electricity for their house — that is one aspect of protecting human health,” he said, specifically referring to lower income populations.

[The Hill]

Trump points to French riots to justify pulling out of Paris climate deal

President Trump on Tuesday cited recent riots in France as justification for his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate deal, which he called “fatally flawed.”

“I am glad that my friend @EmmanuelMacron and the protestors in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago. The Paris Agreement is fatally flawed because it raises the price of energy for responsible countries while whitewashing some of the worst polluters in the world,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The president argued that he has “been making great strides in improving America’s environment,” but suggested the Paris agreement put the burden for environmentally-friendly policies on American taxpayers.

The president’s tweet came after France on Tuesday delayed plans to implement steep taxes on diesel fuel and gasoline as part of Macron’s effort to reduce emissions.

“No tax is worth putting in danger the unity of the nation,” Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said in announcing the delay.

The announcement was preceded by intense protests in Paris, where demonstrators vandalized monuments and clashed with police, injuring more than 100 people. The protesters had lashed out against the planned fuel tax and, more broadly, Macron’s leadership.

Trump announced in June 2017 that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris agreement, which includes nearly every country as part of a global effort to combat climate change. The accord does not allow nations to submit exit paperwork until November 2019, and the United States’s departure would not be effective until November 2020.

The president has long voiced skepticism about the existence of climate change, and his administration has undone a number of environmental regulations established during the Obama years.

Trump late last month dismissed the findings of a government report that warned of dire consequences if the country does not address climate change. The president went on to dispute the scientific consensus that human activity contributes to climate change.

[The Hill]

Trump’s pick for EPA already rolling back climate change protections

Andrew Wheeler, the former coal lobbyist who is now acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, was a “driving force” behind the agenda of Sen. James Inhofe, who called climate change a “hoax,” according to people familiar with Wheeler’s work for the senator.

President Donald Trump has said he intends to nominate Wheeler as the head of the EPA, and in the past five months as acting administrator, Wheeler has moved aggressively to roll back key environmental regulations, prompting critics and environmentalists to say he is fast confirming their worst fears for the agency’s future.

Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, is an outspoken climate change skeptic who was at different times chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Inhofe told CNN last year the EPA was “brainwashing our kids,” and famously once brought a snowball onto the Senate floor to demonstrate his belief that global warming isn’t real.

Inhofe said in a 2003 Senate speech, “I have offered compelling evidence that catastrophic global warming is a hoax,” adding, “the claim that global warming is caused by man-made emissions is simply untrue and not based on sound science.”

Wheeler worked for Inhofe for 14 years, and was his chief counsel and staff director. In that role, Wheeler would have overseen hearings Inhofe held and approved reports Inhofe issued claiming humans have no direct impact on climate change, according to the sources, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. In videos of committee hearings at the time, Wheeler is often seen whispering in Inhofe’s ear and handing him paperwork. In the 2008 “Almanac of the Unelected,” Wheeler’s job is described as “to work on (Inhofe’s) agenda for the committee.”

At a Washington Post forum last week, Wheeler said, “I believe … that man does … have an impact on the climate. That CO2 has an impact on the climate and we do take that seriously.” At the same forum, he admitted he had not read the climate change report released by his agency, which outlined dire warnings of the impact of global warming.

Elizabeth Gore, who was chief of staff for Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, and is now a senior vice president at the Environmental Defense Fund, told CNN that Wheeler “was very high profile, he was a driving force behind Inhofe’s very dangerous agenda to attack climate change and undermine the policies that would protect us from carbon pollution.”

Wheeler declined CNN’s request for an interview, but in a statement the EPA said in part that the activing administrator, “has made it abundantly clear on multiple occasions … that humans have an impact on the climate.” An EPA official also said, “Mr. Wheeler was deeply honored to work for Senator Inhofe in several capacities, however Mr. Wheeler did not write and was not the architect of the Senator’s climate science speeches.”

Wheeler is one of six top EPA officials who either worked directly for Inhofe or on the Senate’s Energy and Public Works Committee. Others are Wheeler’s chief of staff, his principal deputy assistant administrator, his assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance, a senior adviser for policy and an associate administrator for policy. An EPA official said the staffers started working at EPA before Wheeler arrived.

Wheeler moved to the EPA’S top slot in July after then-Administrator Scott Pruitt was forced to resign amid numerous investigations, including questions surrounding his altering of federal documents, over-spending, use of security and other numerous scandals.

Like his former boss, Wheeler is seen to be focused on reversing regulations that protect the nation’s air and water and instead promoting the wishes of the industries impacted by those regulations. Critics fear that Wheeler, who works quietly behind the scenes and knows how to get things done in Washington, is more dangerous to the nation’s health than the scandal-plagued Pruitt ever was.

Michael Gerrard, faculty director of Columbia Law School’s Climate Deregulation Tracker, which follows government deregulation, believes Wheeler will be more successful at reversing environmental protections, “because he understands the administrative and legal process better and he does not have all the craziness of Pruitt’s personal proclivities that got in the way of his effectiveness.”

From 2009 until he joined the EPA last year, Wheeler was a lobbyist for energy, mining and coal companies. Bob Murray, the powerful CEO of Murray Energy, paid Wheeler’s lobbying firm nearly $3 million to, among other things, help the coal baron get access to major decision makers, such as a meeting in March 2017 with Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

When Trump was elected, Murray Energy drafted an “action plan” for the Trump administration, essentially a wish list to get the Environmental Protection Agency off the coal industry’s back.

“Not a whole lot has changed from Pruitt to Wheeler,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat who has demanded the inspector general investigate Murray’s wish list and Wheeler’s ties to industry. “Now more than ever, Trump’s EPA takes its marching orders from fossil fuel and other polluting industries. While Wheeler may not try to finagle a fast food franchise for his wife, he’s no different from Pruitt when it comes to shilling for industry and pushing whatever policies they want.”

The EPA said in a statement, “Mr. Wheeler did not lobby the Trump EPA while working for Murray Energy nor did he did work on the action plan or receive a copy of the memo.”

But in the five months since Wheeler has taken over, the EPA has pulled back on regulating the two largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, coal plants and motor vehicles.

Gerrard told CNN, “Wheeler is carrying out a wish-list of the industry lobbyists who wanted to shut down the environmental regulations, as he himself was a lobbyist with exactly the same objective. But now he is in the driver’s seat.”

In August, the EPA published the “Affordable Clean Energy” plan, designed to replace the Clean Power Plan, which was the Obama administration’s key measure to address climate change. The new rule sets far less stringent emission guidelines.

That same month, the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a proposed rule to weaken car emissions and fuel economy standards. And in September, the EPA published a proposed rule weakening methane emission standards for some oil and gas production and changing requirements on leak repairs.

At the Washington Post forum, Wheeler said the Trump administration deserves credit for a decline in carbon emissions. “In the first year of the Trump administration, we’ve seen a 2.7% reduction in CO2 from 2016 to 2017,” he said.

Asked to name three EPA policies that are contributing to cleaner air, Wheeler struggled to answer. “I’m not sure I’m going to be able to give three off the top of my head,” he said. Of the three he later listed, two are proposed regulations that would dial-back back Obama-era rules that aimed to reduce pollution.

[CNN]

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