In a press release on Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the departure of Bill Wehrum, the controversial assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. And Wehrum’s environmental record has been so abysmal that according to HuffPost’s Jennifer Bendery, a climate change activist/expert was dancing with joy in response to the news of his departure from the EPA.
Bendery didn’t mean “dancing” as a figure of speech. On Twitter, Bendery reported on Wednesday that according to a source, the activist — who she didn’t mention by name — was “literally” dancing after learning that Wehrum was leaving the EPA.
As president, Donald Trump has been highly critical of President Barack Obama’s environmental record — trumpeting his love of fossil fuels and insisting that EPA standards were much too severe under Obama’s watch. Wehrum, after being appointed to the EPA, played a key role in rolling back Obama-era environmental policies. And his departure comes in response to allegations of ethics violations. Wehrum’s critics allege that after joining the EPA, he promoted the interests of former clients in the energy sector.
A source tells me a climate change expert in DC was dancing in the halls just now, literally, at this news. https://t.co/R2jNuX2orG— Jennifer Bendery (@Jennifer Bendery) 1561569463.0
In an official statement, Noah Bookbinder — executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics — asserted, “While not the biggest name to face ethics problems in the Trump Administration, William Wehrum was emblematic of the Administration’s struggles to remain ethical. From almost the moment he took over the EPA, Wehrum appears to have been working to advance the interests of his former clients, apparently violating both his ethics agreement and the Trump Administration’s ethics pledge.”
HuffPost’s Alexander C. Kaufman, in a June 26 article, cites some example of the alleged conflicts of interest on Wehrum’s part — for example, the House Committee on Energy & Commerce is investigating the allegation that Wehrum and a top deputy used their positions in the EPA to help utility companies they had represented when they were with the law firm now known as Hunton Andrews Kurth (which was Hunton & Williams at the time).
Also, Kaufman reports, Wehrum met with the Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG), a former client known for aggressively promoting fossil fuels. That organization, which disbanded in May, was funded by several companies that opposed stricter limits on pollution caused by coal-fired plants.
Rep. Frank Pallone, the New Jersey Democrat who now heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is glad to see Wehrum go — describing his departure as “welcome news.”
“Much like UARG suddenly dissolving in the face of scrutiny,” Pallone told HuffPost, “Wehrum is now suddenly leaving amidst investigations into his potential ethical misconduct — investigations that should and will continue.”