Schumer pushes Wheeler on cars, chemicals — aide

Source: Kevin Bogardus, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, now nominated to lead the agency, met with the Senate Democrats’ leader yesterday.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) had “a passionate discussion” with Wheeler on several issues confronting EPA, a senior Democratic aide told E&E News.

Wheeler was already pressed on several of them in public by Democratic senators at his Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing Wednesday.

In the meeting, Schumer pushed Wheeler against moving forward with EPA’s proposed rule on fuel economy standards for cars, rolling back the Obama-era regulation, and instead reach agreement with California and other states that have tougher tailpipe rules.

In addition, Schumer told Wheeler to set a drinking water standard for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Wheeler said he was looking into the class of chemicals but the shutdown had affected the effort, according to the Democratic aide.

Wheeler said in his hearing earlier this week that EPA planned to release a PFAS management plan soon but also cited the funding lapse for delays.

The acting EPA chief couldn’t commit to issuing a drinking water standard for the chemicals within two years (Greenwire, Jan. 16).

The aide said that Schumer and Wheeler also discussed EPA’s mercury rule, its stalled ban on the deadly paint-stripping chemical methylene chloride, as well as the Kigali Amendment, an international agreement to reduce hydrofluorocarbons, a greenhouse gas, which has not been backed by the Trump administration.

EPA press officials didn’t respond to a request for comment from E&E News for this story. Politicowas first to report Wheeler’s meeting with Schumer.

Wheeler has led the agency on an acting basis since July after Scott Pruitt, swamped with ethics troubles, stepped down. President Trump formally nominated him for head of EPA earlier this month.

Having already weathered his confirmation hearing, Wheeler may receive a committee vote by early February. Democrats have discussed pushing for policy concessions from Wheeler in exchange for a faster timeline, as has happened with other picks (E&E Daily, Jan. 14).

“Eventually those nominations moved on a consent basis but, in turn, made some really significant clean air, clean water, public health concessions that were important I think to our country,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member on the EPW panel, said last week.

“I think the way that we acted with respect to those [recent EPA nominees] probably gives you a pretty good idea of what’s necessary in order for Andrew’s nomination to move.”

Reporter Maxine Joselow contributed.