Energy

Top EPA Official Steps Down After Spearheading Trump’s Deregulatory Agenda

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

A top Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official is leaving after spearheading much of President Donald Trump’s deregulatory agenda, the agency announced Wednesday.

“I would like to thank Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum for his service, his dedication to his job, the leadership he provided to his staff and the agency, and for his friendship,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.

Wehrum, who headed the EPA’s air and radiation office, spearheaded rewriting Obama-era regulations targeted by the Trump administration. Wehrum’s biggest deregulatory move leading the effort to repeal and replace the Clean Power Plan with the narrower Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule.

Wehrum also worked on freezing Obama-era greenhouse gas tailpipe regulations and various permitting reforms. EPA is scheduled to finalize its freezing of tailpipe standards later this year. (RELATED: 2020 Hopeful Claims Global Warming Made Parts Of Central America ‘Uninhabitable’)

“Bill was hands down the most effective assistant administrator the Office of Air and Radiation has ever had,” said Mandy Gunasekara, a former EPA attorney who worked with Wehrum, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “He’s leaving on a high note in terms of regulatory achievement and a legacy of showing a young political team how to engage with the esteemed civil servants to achieve great things including a better environmental future for this country.”

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

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.

Wheeler asked Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator Anne Idsal to serve as acting head of EPA’s air and radiation office.

Wehrum departs EPA amid scrutiny over possible ethics rules violations, with many reports of his departure emphasizing the issue. But a source close to Wehrum said he initially never planned to serve for more than a year.

The Senate confirmed Wehrum in November 2017. Wherum will depart EPA at the end of the month, according to the agency.

Wehrum stayed at EPA longer than planned in order to wrap up work on major agency actions, like finishing the ACE rule, the source told the DCNF. Rolling back Obama-era policies took longer than Wehrum expected, the source said.

“While he was frustrated at the democrats effort to lodge unsubstantiated ethical attacks, that had no bearing on his decision. He always planned to leave after a year or so,” Gunasekara said.

Alleged ethics breaches, pushed by Democrats and environmentalists, stem from Wehrum’s previous work as an attorney for energy companies regulated by EPA that sought to nix some regulations.

House Democrats launched an investigation into Wehrum in February on news reports the former industry attorney didn’t comply with the Trump administration’s ethics pledge. Reports found Wehrum met with two former clients before consulting EPA ethics officials.

Wehrum also participated in an EPA decision that seemed to benefit a former client, The Washington Post reported, though told The Post he had determined his actions did not violate federal ethics rules.

“It is, at the very least, going to take years to undo the damage that has been done,” the Sierra Club’s John Coequyt told The Post.

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