Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

air pollution

President Donald Trump issued a memo on Thursday directing the EPA to scale back clean air regulations. (Photo: isciencetimes.com)

Senate Confirms Coal Lobbyist as #2 at EPA as Trump Moves to Slash Clean Air Rules

The president just granted "a polluter's dream" while federal lawmakers approved "Big Oil's backup plan in case Scott Pruitt finally drowns in his own corruption."

Jessica Corbett

As EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt faces mounting criticism for a controversial condo rental and calls for his resignation, President Donald Trump on Thursday ordered the agency to significantly scale back "one of the strongest science-based public health protections we have" while the Senate confirmed a former coal lobbyist to serve as Pruitt's second-in-command.

"This is really just a backdoor attack on national clean air protections."
—Frank O'Donnell,
Clean Air Watch

The Clean Air Act requires states to submit plans to the EPA outlining how they intend to comply with federal standards for common air pollutants that are reviewed by the agency every five years. States that submit inadequate plans—or decline to even develop them—are subject to federal compliance plans for meeting air pollution standards.

In a presidential memorandum, Trump directed Pruitt to issue quick decisions on state plans and preconstruction permits; review federal compliance plans and the procedure for establishing nationwide air pollution standards; implement "flexible offset policies" for the purpose of promoting "economic expansion" in rural regions; and take a series of steps to "provide relief to state and local air agencies addressing emissions that are beyond their control."

Aligned with the overall Trump-Pruitt mission of slashing regulations that aim to protect the health of the public and the environment, the top goal of Trump's latest memo, according to the agency leader nicknamed "Pruitt the Polluter," is "reducing regulatory burdens for domestic manufacturing."

"This is really just a backdoor attack on national clean air protections," Frank O'Donnell, president of the environmental group Clean Air Watch, told Alexander Kaufman at The Huffington Post. "It is a polluter's dream."

In a series of tweets, Kaufman outlined some of the order's most damning elements:

Meanwhile, in a 53-45 vote, the Senate on Thursday confirmed Andrew Wheeler to serve as the EPA's deputy administrator. Wheeler was a member of the Trump transition team, has worked as a lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry, and spent more than two decades serving as an aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), "one of the most outspoken climate deniers in Congress."

"As Scott Pruitt stumbles from scandal to scandal, there is nothing more dangerous than a dirty energy lobbyist waiting in the wings to become acting administrator."
Lukas Ross, Friends of the Earth

His appointment was vehemently opposed by conservationists including Lukas Ross, a climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, who called Wheeler "Big Oil's backup plan in case Scott Pruitt finally drowns in his own corruption."

"Wheeler will continue the Trump-Pruitt agenda of fossil fuel worship and corporate favoritism," warned Ross. "As Scott Pruitt stumbles from scandal to scandal, there is nothing more dangerous than a dirty energy lobbyist waiting in the wings to become acting administrator."

Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) were among those who voted against Wheeler's confirmation. Harris called Wheeler's appointment "absurd," while Warren warned, "Now he could work to poison the agency—and the environment he's supposed to protect—for years to come." 


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

40+ NYC Activists Arrested for Protests Against Banks Fueling Climate Emergency

"We're sending a message loud and clear that the little action that politicians and greenwashing CEOs have taken so far does not begin to deal with the magnitude of this crisis."

Jessica Corbett ·


FDA Panel Recommends Pfizer Booster Shots for People 65+ and Especially Vulnerable

The scientific advisory committee voted down a recommendation for other adults.

Common Dreams staff ·


'What Betrayal Looks Like': UN Report Says World on Track for 2.7°C of Warming by 2100

"Whatever our so-called 'leaders' are doing," said Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, "they are doing it wrong."

Jake Johnson ·


Critics Warn Biden That 30% Methane Reduction by 2030 Not Good Enough

Following the new U.S.-E.U. pledge, climate campaigners called for an urgent end to fossil fuel extraction and major reforms of agricultural practices.

Jessica Corbett ·


Anti-War Voices Blast Biden Over 'Absurd' $500 Million Saudi Military Contract

"This breaks the Biden administration's promise to end U.S. support for the tragic war in Yemen," said one prominent peace campaigner.

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo