WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a business meeting to consider the nomination of Andrew Wheeler, of Virginia, to be Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Last week, after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt appeared before our Committee, I told him that it would be difficult to move forward with additional EPA nominees until the nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White was withdrawn. I am pleased that the administration heeded my words and responded to my concerns, and those of other Senators, and I hope the White House will name a qualified nominee to run the Council on Environmental Quality.

“Thirty-three states have Republican Governors with environmental advisors and agencies that could provide a thoughtful environmental and public health champion to lead this critical office in the federal government.

“Today, this Committee will vote for the second time on the nomination of Andrew Wheeler to be the Deputy Administrator of EPA. As a staff member on this Committee for Senator Voinovich and Senator Inhofe, Mr. Wheeler was not someone with whom we agreed on each and every policy. However, Mr. Wheeler did prove to be someone with whom we could work on policies on which we did agree, like the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act.

“I would also note that his responses during and after last year’s hearing on his nomination were, for the most part, encouraging. But I would like to take a moment to discuss what I believe may be some concerns associated with both Mr. Wheeler and the EPA, and to note that I very much hope these concerns could be addressed in a manner that would allow the full Senate to consider his nomination soon.

“Recently, the public got a chance to read the so-called ‘Murray Action Plan,’ a list of policy proposals submitted to President Trump and other Trump Administration officials by Mr. Wheeler’s former client, Bob Murray. The Murray Action plan includes any number of measures that EPA has already started to implement, like the repeals of the Clean Power Plan and Clean Water Rule and the decimation of EPA’s career workforce.

“The document also called for some measures that EPA has NOT yet acted upon. For example, Mr. Murray calls for the repeal of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards – rules that limit dangerous pollution from power plants – even though industry is already complying with the rules. Mr. Murray also calls for a re-examination of climate change science and the repeal of EPA’s so-called ‘endangerment finding’ – the conclusion that both the Bush and Obama Administrations reached that found that global warming pollution from cars and SUVs was dangerous.

“I have met personally with Mr. Wheeler twice, and I have asked him directly whether he was involved in writing Mr. Murray’s proposal. He assured me he was not. He told me that one of Murray Energy’s priority issues he worked on was securing health and other benefits for retired miners. Moreover, he also assured me that he views EPA’s legal authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which is based on the ‘endangerment finding,’ as settled law. I have no reason to doubt Mr. Wheeler’s assurances that at least on the question of the endangerment finding, he holds a view that is distinct from Bob Murray’s. However, I am sure that I speak – not just for myself – when I say that I do not feel similarly assured by Administrator Pruitt.

“The Trump White House has said that it wants EPA and the Transportation Department to negotiate what I like to call a ‘win-win’ on CAFE and tailpipe standards with California. That means that the Trump Administration’s policy must be to leave the endangerment finding alone, because the endangerment finding is what gives EPA and California the authority to write the tailpipe greenhouse gas rules in the first place. But Administrator Pruitt has repeatedly refused to say this clearly. For example, in July he told Reuters that there might be a legal basis to overturn EPA’s ‘endangerment finding’ decision. And when I asked him just last week to commit not to overturn it for as long as he is Administrator, he refused to make that commitment.

“Similarly, when Senator Merkley asked Administrator Pruitt to confirm the public reports that White House officials told Mr. Pruitt that he does not have their permission to move forward with his planned ‘Red Team/Blue Team’ challenge to climate science, Mr. Pruitt called these reports ‘untrue.’ And just yesterday, the Administrator questioned whether warming temperatures were a bad thing in the first place. Administrator Pruitt did agree, however, in response to Senator Markey, that his preference was to work to find ‘consensus’ with California on how to regulate greenhouse gas tailpipe standards for cars and SUVs. But reports indicate that serious technical negotiations with California have yet to begin, and any move to repeal or revise EPA’s endangerment finding would completely and immediately de-rail this entire effort.

“Last week, Administrator Pruitt was given the opportunity to say that he does not plan to do each and every thing that Mr. Wheeler’s former client Bob Murray asked the Trump Administration to do. Unfortunately, he did not seize that opportunity. I believe that Members of this Committee and members of the public deserve more clarity about whether the Trump Administration will be guided by science and the law, or by Bob Murray’s demands. That lack of clarity is a large part of why I cannot yet support quickly moving forward with Mr. Wheeler’s nomination. I believe we all need to understand, particularly for the items on the Murray Action plan list like the endangerment finding, climate science and the mercury and air toxics rule, whether this Administration will govern in a manner that will bring regulatory certainty to industry, or whether it will instead accede to the wishes of Mr. Wheeler’s former client and throw industry into disarray or litigation.  

“I look forward to a continued dialogue with my colleagues in the Senate and with the Administration over our concerns, in the hopes that we can address them as we work towards a possible time agreement for the consideration of Mr. Wheeler’s nomination.”