The Senate on Thursday narrowly confirmed President Trump’s pick to head the EPA’s office of air and radiation, widely considered the second most important post at the agency.
On a party-line vote of 49 to 47, the chamber approved Bill Wehrum to lead the office. The nomination of Mr. Wehrum, a former energy industry attorney who worked in the EPA during the George W. Bush administration, was deeply opposed by Democrats and environmental groups who said his ties to the energy sector represent massive conflicts of interest.
In his new position, Mr. Wehrum will directly oversee agency efforts to undo many Obama-era regulations, including the Clean Power Plan, a set of emissions limits on coal-fired power plants that the Trump EPA plans to scrap.
“The EPA’s air office has been responsible for creating the agency’s most punishing regulations,” Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican and chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, said after the vote. “Bill Wehrum’s three decades of environmental policy experience will be enormously helpful as he works to cut red tape, protect America’s air, and allow our economy to grow.”
Green groups say Mr. Wehrum surely will favor energy-industry growth over clean air, making him a deeply unsettling choice.
“It’s genuinely hard to fathom someone less suited to lead clean air efforts at the EPA than Bill Wehrum,” said Andrea Delgado, legislative director for healthy communities at the environmental group Earthjustice. “Like other Trump nominees, he has made a career leading efforts to weaken standards that protect us from mercury, silica, lead, and smog at the expense of the health and safety of children, workers, and communities. While he works overtime to unwind crucial health safeguards that keep our air clean, we will be watching his every move and stand ready to hold him accountable if he oversteps his authorities.”
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