Senate panel approves Trump nominee for EPA clean air office

A Senate committee approved President Trump’s nominee to be assistant administrator of Air and Radiation at the Environmental Protection Agency. The Environment and Public Works Committee approved the nomination of attorney Bill Wehrum with a narrow party-line vote, 11-10.

When Trump announced Wehrum’s nomination in September, it was controversial because his clients have included coal, oil, gas and utility companies as well as some automakers. If confirmed by the Senate, he would be in charge of a greenhouse gas emissions program for automobiles. In a former role at the air office at the EPA, Wehrum resisted efforts to regulate carbon as a pollutant. After the Supreme Court ruled that regulating carbon was part of EPA’s mandate, the agency started writing stricter fuel economy and auto emissions standards under former President Obama.

Wehrum has said states should have more authority for addressing air pollution. But he does not believe California should be permitted to have stricter auto emissions standards because the state has not shown it is disproportionately affected by global warming.

With that background, it’s no surprise that Republicans have praised Wehrum’s nomination as an important part of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s deregulatory thrust, and Democrats and environmental groups have opposed Wehrum. No date has been set for a full Senate vote.

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