Senate confirms ex-coal lobbyist to lead US environment regulator: Collins votes no
FILE PHOTO: Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Andrew Wheeler speaks during an event hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed President Donald Trump’s candidate, a former coal lobbyist, to lead the nation’s top environmental regulator, infuriating Democrats and conservation groups who said his policies were endangering public health.

Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a Washington insider with years of experience working as a congressional staffer, was nominated by Trump in January to permanently replace Scott Pruitt, who resigned in July after widespread criticism for alleged ethical missteps.

“As acting administrator of EPA, (Wheeler) has prioritized commonsense policies that protect our air and water, while allowing our economy to grow,” said Senate Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming following the 52-47 vote.

Only one Republican in the Republican-controlled Senate opposed Wheeler, Maine’s Susan Collins, who argued his efforts to roll back standards on emissions blamed for climate change takes the country in the wrong direction.

Business interests like oil and coal, eager to see reduced regulation, were quick to hail Wheeler’s confirmation while Democrats and conservation groups are worried that environmental rollbacks under the Trump administration are going too far.

“Throughout his career, Andrew Wheeler has shown a clear disregard for the EPA’s mission to protect the public and environment,” said Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein from California, after voting against him.