Energy

EPA Reassigns Top Bureaucrat Critics See As Key Resistor Of Trump’s Agenda

REUTERS/Ting Shen

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
  • The Environmental Protection Agency transferred a top official who critics saw as a hindrance to President Donald Trump’s agenda.
  • Christopher Grundler, who heads the Office of Transportation and Air Quality, will move to the Office of Atmospheric Programs in August.
  • EPA investigators are looking into potential collusion regarding officials in Grundler’s division and Volvo over an emissions test.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transferred a top official who critics see as a key resistor of President Donald Trump’s agenda, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, will be moving to another agency division in early August. (RELATED: Did The DNC Reject A Climate Change Debate To ‘Protect’ Joe Biden?)

EPA will make Grundler director of the Office of Atmospheric Programs, which oversees climate change programs. Sarah Dunham will replace Grundler as director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality, which is in charge of setting vehicle emissions standards.

“[The Office of Air and Radiation] is very fortunate to have leaders with the level of experience, expertise, executive skill, and commitment to EPA’s mission that Chris and Sarah bring to their work,” Bill Wehrum, EPA’s assistant administrator for Office of Air and Radiation, said in a statement emailed to TheDCNF.

“This brings fresh and different perspectives to these critical EPA offices, while providing new leadership opportunities for two outstanding senior executives. I look forward to working with Chris and Sarah in their new roles,” Wehrum said.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee hearing

U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee hearing on the FY2020 EPA Budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas.

Grundler oversaw the rollout of Obama-era greenhouse gas emissions tailpipe regulations on cars and trucks, which the Trump administration proposed repealing in 2018. Grundler also oversaw similar regulations for heavy-duty trucks and a cap on so-called “glider” trucks.

Grundler’s job was “most important to the environment that nobody knows about,” according to environmentalists supportive of the Obama administration’s agenda, Bloomberg reported in 2016 that described Grundler as the “bane of the auto industry.”

Environmentalists used Grundler’s emails, obtained by Greenpeace, to push back against the Trump administration’s freezing of Obama-era tailpipe regulations meant to fight global warming.

The Trump administration also began working to lift the cap on gliders at the behest of manufacturers who were forced to cut production and lay off workers. However, that deregulatory action has been held up by bureaucratic delays and legal setbacks.

EPA investigators are looking into whether or not officials in Grundler’s EPA office properly carried out a test widely used by opponents glider trucks — refurbished truck engines with new chassis.

Unearthed emails showed EPA officials at the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory (NVFEL) working with a Volvo lobbyist to procure gliders for testing — Volvo opposed repealing glider regulations.

“The purpose, of course, was to embarrass and intimidate the Trump EPA into aborting the rollback of the Obama EPA rule,” JunkScience.com publisher Steve Milloy, who obtained the emails, said in 2018.

Flags fly outside the EPA headquarters in Washington

Flags fly outside the U.S. EPA headquarters in Washington, U.S., July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Ting Shen.

House Republicans convinced EPA’s inspector general to investigate potential collusion between Volvo and EPA officials in Grundler’s division. Investigators are expected to release their report later in 2019.

EPA’s Wehrum told Congress in 2018 that Volvo “expressed a willingness to assist with EPA’s acquisition of a glider vehicle for testing through its dealership network,” but said NVFEL’s study was “independent of any outside stakeholder input.”

In the meantime, EPA moved Dunham to replace Grundler as head of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality.

“Sarah Dunham taking over the transportation office is a great day for EPA,” said Manday Gunasekara, a former Trump EPA official who now heads the group Energy 45.

“I can think of no one better to bring fresh leadership to the office that is charged with the immense responsibility of advancing environmental goals across our transportation sector,” Gunasekara told TheDCNF.

Grundler did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

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