EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler warned energy producers and manufacturers today to be on the lookout for increased regulation.
Speaking to the Midwest Environmental Compliance Conference in a recorded video, Wheeler said he had been asked by a reporter recently about threats to ban hydraulic fracturing made on the campaign trail. He warned that more rules could threaten the industry’s survival.
"I said, ‘You don’t have to ban something in order to regulate it to death.’ This is exactly what the previous administration did to the coal industry, and it is a road map for what a future administration could do to other fuels," Wheeler said.
The EPA administrator said regulation can be used "to punish and go after specific industries." Job losses can soon follow, he said.
"If a future administration begins to pick winners and losers in energy and the manufacturing industries linked to it, the job dislocation and unemployment will be higher in many states. It will also hurt many of the same people that have benefited the most from the current administration’s support of energy production and manufacturing industries that supply it," Wheeler said.
Wheeler did not explicitly say this "future administration" was President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming team that will take charge of EPA and other federal agencies on Jan. 20.
Biden has said that as president he would prohibit new fossil fuel drilling on public lands but has emphasized that he would not ban fracking.
President Trump has sought to overturn results of last month’s election through litigation as well as lobbying state lawmakers to swing electors his way. That effort has fizzled as states have begun to certify vote totals, showing Biden won the 2020 presidential race.
Biden’s effort to prepare his incoming administration is also formally underway, with the head of his agency review team meeting with an EPA official last week (Greenwire, Nov. 25).
In his remarks, Wheeler also touted the Trump EPA’s achievements, citing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution as well as delisting of Superfund toxic waste sites and investment in water infrastructure.
"As far as the EPA is concerned, it’s my opinion that the agency has gotten more done in the past four years than in any period of EPA’s history, except perhaps in the very first years of the agency," Wheeler said.
To prepare EPA for the future, he said, the Trump administration has implemented "five new pillars" to improve the agency:
- A Clean Air Act cost-benefit rule.
- A "science transparency" rule that could limit what scientific studies EPA uses.
- New procedures for guidance policy.
- Reorganizing the agency’s regional offices.
- Establishing a "Lean" management system to streamline operations.
The Biden administration is expected to target several of those actions once it’s in power.
Wheeler concluded his remarks by saying regulation can be used inappropriately at times.
"As Winston Churchill once said, ‘Where there is great power, there is great responsibility.’ EPA has great regulatory power, the legal power of the federal government behind it, and sometimes that power can be used improperly," Wheeler said, but he added that people across the nation have taken responsibility for a cleaner environment, making the work of EPA much easier.