EPW Hearing Statement: Examining EPA’s Agenda: Protecting the Environment and Allowing America’s Economy to Grow

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held the hearing, “Examining EPA’s Agenda: Protecting the Environment and Allowing America’s Economy to Grow,” featuring witness Andrew Wheeler, Acting Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“As many of you know, along with other members in this room, I have been asking for an oversight hearing with the EPA Administrator for months.  I’m pleased that our Committee is holding that hearing today. And I have to be honest with you, I’m even more pleased that the person at our witness table is not Scott Pruitt.

“When Mr. Wheeler took the helm of the agency 25 days ago, The Washington Post noted that we were trading an Administrator who was known for, quote, ‘sipping organic juice infused with kale’ for an Acting Administrator who collects Coca-Cola memorabilia.  With that said, Mr. Wheeler, I have something to present to you today to add to your collection, something that my staff found for sale in the Senate cafeteria, and I thought you might like it.

“I am encouraged that there will be a number of differences between Mr. Wheeler and Mr. Pruitt and the way they approach this important leadership role.  For example, I don’t expect to hear as much as a peep from Mr. Wheeler today about used mattress shopping, Chick-fil-A franchises, or fancy moisturizers.

“But what we do need to hear from Mr. Wheeler today is how he plans to differentiate himself from Mr. Pruitt across a range of environmental policies that are far more consequential.  How will he repair the significant damage that Mr. Pruitt has done to the EPA?  Will the American public once again trust the EPA to carry out its mission of protecting the public’s health and the environment?

“Now, I believe in giving credit where credit is due.  In the few weeks that Mr. Wheeler has been the Acting Administrator, he has published his calendars on a daily basis.  He has opened up EPA events to the media, as well as begun to work to ensure that EPA’s beleaguered career staff once again feel valued, respected and included.

“He withdrew Mr. Pruitt’s parting act to stop enforcing air emission standards for some of the dirtiest heavy-duty trucks on the road under the Clean Air Act, granting one company permission to continue building high-polluting glider trucks for two years.

“But there is much more work to be done. 

“Mr. Wheeler has told me repeatedly that he shares my goal of striking a deal between automakers and the State of California on fuel economy and greenhouse gas tailpipe standards. Unfortunately, the Administration’s proposal could not be further from the ‘win-win’ outcome many of us believe is within reach. 

“Instead of providing near-term flexibility and predictability for the auto industry in exchange for more rigorous standards and clean vehicle incentives going forward, the Trump Administration is proposing to freeze standards for seven straight model years.

“The Administration would remove all credits for air conditioning and other improvements and argue that California should be preempted.  Such a proposal is not the win-win outcome that stakeholders are asking for: one that keeps the American auto industry competitive, creates more good paying jobs here at home, and protects our environment well into the future.  Instead, this Administration has, once again, ignored common sense, turned its back on a solution that would allow for states like California to enforce its own clean standards, and decided to listen to the most extreme voices as it –pushes through a plan no one is interested in.

“For America’s auto industry to be successful in a world market, it needs certainty and predictability. Regrettably, what President Trump has proposed assures just the opposite. 

“Mr. Pruitt’s EPA also had a warped sense of ‘cooperative federalism,’ especially when it came to protecting downwind states from harmful air pollution.  Under Mr. Pruitt, EPA failed to meet deadlines to designate who was living in unhealthy ozone areas, and delayed emissions reductions critical to downwind states. 

“At the same time, Mr. Pruitt’s EPA rejected requests from downwind states to require upwind polluters to install or operate existing pollution controls, tried to cut state air program funding, and weakened enforcement efforts.  All of these actions were a disaster for the people – like those in my home state of Delaware, and states like Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts – living at the end of what I like to call America’s tailpipe. 

“Instead of prioritizing and protecting the polluters, I hope Mr. Wheeler will prioritize and protect the people being harmed. 

“Under Mr. Pruitt, the EPA has also acted to roll back clean water protections by dishonestly inflating the costs of the rules to industry, while also minimizing the health and environmental benefits to the public.  Mr. Wheeler needs to describe how he plans to ensure that clean water and other rules are based on credible data and comply with the law. Mr. Pruitt misguidedly banned any scientist who had received EPA grant funding from serving on EPA’s scientific advisory committees.  He proposed to have EPA ignore and not consider some of the best scientific studies in the world. It is my sincere hope that Mr. Wheeler will share with us his plans for ending EPA’s war on science.

“Disappointingly too, there is probably no aspect of EPA’s implementation of the new Toxic Substances Control Act that won’t be litigated.  Mr. Pruitt’s EPA chose to blatantly disregard the clear and unambiguous law we largely wrote in this committee, and Congress passed with near unanimous support.  This kind of blatant disregard for the rule of law needs to end.

“Mr. Wheeler needs to describe how he plans to stop wasting taxpayer funds and EPA’s lawyers’ time defending proposals that are clearly illegal, and restore the Agency to one that respects the rule of law and is guided by science.

“The day after Scott Pruitt’s resignation, I sent Mr. Wheeler a letter. I told him, quote, “you have been granted an enormous challenge and responsibility, but an even greater opportunity.  The damage Scott Pruitt has done to the Agency will not easily be undone.  While you and I have not always agreed, and will not always agree, on every environmental policy matter, it is my hope and expectation that you will carefully consider the lessons of the past as you prepare to chart the Agency’s future.”  I look forward to a continued dialogue and to today’s hearing.