For the second time in his career as an energy industry attorney, William Wehrum has been nominated to the Environmental Protection Agency’s number two spot. President Trump, who prefers coal over the world’s livable future, officially nominated Wehrum to be the EPA’s assistant administrator for air and radiation on Thursday.
If confirmed, Wehrum would oversee anything and everything related to air pollution. Most distressingly, Wehrum would supervise enforcement of the Clean Air Act, which could potentially be catastrophic for Americans who enjoy breathing the country’s mildly unpolluted air.
Wehrum was acting air administrator from 2005 until 2007 during President George W. Bush’s administration—his confirmation was eventually blocked by incensed Senate Democrats. When he was first nominated, Senator Barbara Boxer described Wehrum as an “extremely troubling” candidate with a history of “discounting health impacts, ignoring scientific findings and substituting industry positions for the clear intent of Congress.”
Despite his brief stint at the EPA, Wehrum was able to implement policies that transparently favored the industries he was supposed to regulate, and his record in 2006 provides a preview of what’s to come: loosened emission caps for toxic chemicals, relaxed mercury guidelines, and a push to allow more air pollution.
Wehrum actually possess a degree in chemical engineering, which is an atypical requirement for Trump considering he nominated a political scientist to the Agricultural Department’s top science post. So when he’s tasked with dismantling and deregulating air quality rules, Wehrum will know how to do it effectively and with the influence of his former clients at the American Petroleum Institute. Or American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufactures. Or the American Chemistry Council. Et cetera.
While Democrats have already vowed to fight Wehrum’s nomination, it’s unlikely that there will be enough political pushback to force him to withdraw his nomination again. Let’s just hope our government-issued air filtration masks are flattering.