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EPA chief: 'We’ve done more than Obama'

07/10/2020
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Washington Examiner
By Paul Bedard
July 10, 2020

The media has had a field day covering President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency, which turns 50 in December.

It helped drive the first, scandal-battered administrator out of office, broke records in filing Freedom of Information Act requests, and hyped every deregulation of Obama-era rules as a rollback to the days of sooty air and poisonous water that President Richard Nixon targeted in founding the agency in December 1970.

But inside the agency, officials and staff, including seven from its first days, have pushed ahead to do more to clean the environment while creating jobs.

“We are the gold standard worldwide,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told Secrets. “President Trump does not get the recognition that he deserves,” he added.

Wheeler, a former Eagle Scout who worked environmental issues on Capitol Hill, at the EPA, and for a big law firm, likes to tick off several major advances the agency has achieved under Trump.

Air pollution is down 7%, 27 Superfund sites have been delisted, 1,200 state air pollution improvement plans have been OK’d and backlogs cut in half, drinking water in schools and day care centers is now being tested for lead, and Obama-era rules that stretched beyond the law were redone to comply with rules.

“We’re not decimating jobs. We’re creating jobs and improving the environment,” Wheeler said in a 30-minute interview. “We’ve done more in four years than the Obama administration in eight,” he added.

Surprised to hear that? Then blame Democrats and the liberal media, said Wheeler.

“Over the last 30 years, I will say that the Democrats have done a successful job of painting the environment as a partisan issue, and it’s not, and it shouldn’t be. But some of the biggest cash cows of the Democratic Party are the environmental organizations. They don’t care about cleaning up the environment,” he said, adding, “They care about a sound byte for the election."

The bias is so bad against GOP-run EPAs that an NPR reporter last month, after interviewing Wheeler for 45 minutes, called their seemingly friendly talk “unsettling.” The insult prompted Wheeler to tell Secrets that it is time to defund NPR. “They certainly are a sacred cow that needs to be slaughtered,” said Wheeler.

He pointed to other coverage, especially the heavy focus on his deregulations.

“They are not talking about how we are replacing those regulations. With almost every single deregulatory action that has been done, we have replaced it with a better regulation that makes more sense, is more cost-effective, and still reduces pollution,” he said.

And he noted that Trump was the first president ever to include environmental provisions in a big trade deal, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Among the provisions is a deal to limit ocean litter, mostly dumped by China and other nations.

As the 50th anniversary nears, Wheeler said he and his top team are turning to the next 50 years. One intriguing plan is an agency reorganization that would remove the “silos” and create a more unified approach to improving the economy.

Asked how Nixon would view the agency at its golden anniversary, Wheeler said, “I think he would be very impressed with the progress we made,” adding, “I think he would be shocked at how partisan the issue has become. I really think he would. If you look back over the last 50 years, the major environmental statutes have been done by Republican presidents. ... Republican leadership on the environment is unquestioned — or should be.”

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