Senate committee advances Wheeler’s nomination to head the EPA

By Erin Voegele | February 05, 2019

On Feb. 5, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works voted 11 to 10 along party lines to advance the nomination of Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to fill the post of administrator of the agency. The full Senate will now consider his nomination.

President Trump formally nominated Wheeler to serve as EPA administrator on Jan. 9. Wheeler has held the post of acting administrator since July 9, 2018, following Scott Pruitt’s resignation earlier that month. 

Trump first nominated Wheeler to fill the role of deputy administrator of the EPA in January 2018. The Senate approved that appointment on April 12, 2018 by a vote of 53 to 45.

Wheeler appeared before the committee on Jan. 16 during a hearing to consider his nomination. During the hearing, he fielded several questions regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard and the EPA’s expected rulemaking to allow year-round sales of E15. At that time, he said the agency plans to finalize its E15 rulemaking before the June 1 start of the summer driving season. He also, however, stressed that a prolonged government shutdown could derail those plans. Wheeler was referring to the partial government shutdown that began Dec. 21 and spanned 35 days—the longest so far in U.S. history. On Jan. 25, Trump signed a bill to temporarily fund the federal government. That funding, however, runs out on Feb. 15. If a long-term spending deal cannot be reached by that date, another government shutdown could occur.

In a tweet following the vote, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said Trump has been clear in his commitment to year-round E15 by the summer driving season. “Today I supported [Wheeler’s] nomination to lead the [EPA] with the expectation he upholds the administration’s promise,” she tweeted. “I will continue to work with him to ensure this is met.”

The American Coalition for Ethanol has spoken out to congratulate Wheeler on the vote to advance his nomination. “One week ago, I wrote to all U.S. Senators urging them to get evidence that Mr. Wheeler will finalize a legally-defensible RVP rule to allow E15 use year-round before June 1, and reallocate ethanol blending obligations waived for 2016 and 2017 through the Small Refinery Exemption (SRE) provision of the RFS,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. “As the full Senate takes up his nomination, it is critical for the Acting Administrator to repair the damage done to renewable fuels by his predecessor.”