Jan 13, 2021
Ex-DHS chief says Trump bears some responsibility for Capitol riots: What he says matters
This news has been received from: thehill.com
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Chad WolfChad WolfOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs denounce Capitol attack | Contractors halt donations after siege | 'QAnon Shaman' at Capitol is Navy vet The Hill's Morning Report - House to impeach Trump on Wednesday Planned protests spark fears of more violence in Trump's final days MORE, who resigned this week as acting Homeland Security secretary, said that President TrumpDonald TrumpGrowing number of GOP lawmakers say they support impeachment YouTube temporarily bars uploading of new content on Trump's channel House passes measure calling on Pence to remove Trump MORE had some "responsibility" for the Capitol riots that occurred last Wednesday.
"He's the President. What he says matters," Wolf told CNN in an interview on Wednesday. "People listen to him — particularly supporters of his, I would say, really listen to him — so there is responsibility there."
He added that those rioting also bore responsibility and that the Congress would have to determine if Trump’s actions are worthy of impeachment.
Wolf was the third person in Trump’s administration to step down after the violent attack on the Capitol.
"[I]f you're going to protest, you do that in a very nonviolent way. I'd like to have him speak, have him say that and just that," Wolf said.
Wolf also called for all politicians to denounce violence, and referenced acts that took place at protests against police brutality this past summer.
Wolf was nominated to be the acting Homeland Security secretary last August. He had come under criticism after a government watchdog determined Wolf was not legally qualified to hold the position.
Trump still nominated Wolf to be a permanent DHS secretary but withdrew the nomination shortly after Wolf said all elected officials including Trump should be condemning the Capitol riot.
The White House maintained that the decision to withdraw Wolf’s nomination occurred before his comments about the Capitol riot and was only made public afterward.
“I was disappointed that the President didn't speak out sooner on that. I think he had a role to do that. I think, unfortunately, the administration lost a little bit of the moral high ground on this issue by not coming out sooner on it," Wolf said.Tags Trump Administration Homeland Security Chad Wolf Donald Trump
News Source: thehill.com
Outgoing EPA chief says Biden can ‘build off’ Trump actions
President Trump’s top environmental official thinks the incoming Biden team can issue stricter emissions policies while keeping his legacy intact.
“There isn’t anything that would need to be repealed, regardless of what their position is,” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler told the Washington Examiner in a wide-ranging interview Friday. “If they want to take a different direction, they can build off of it.”
Wheeler spoke to the Washington Examiner in between packing up his office, after he said he was told he needed to be out of the EPA building Friday instead of Tuesday.
The administrator’s view is markedly different from that of environmental activists and Democrats, who have called on the Biden administration to get started immediately in peeling back dozens of Trump-era actions. Their target list includes regulations that weakened greenhouse gas standards for power plants, cars, and oil and gas producers set in the Obama administration, as well as rules fundamentally changing how the EPA makes policy that activists say will tie the Biden administration’s hands.
Wheeler, though, said environmental activists are setting “unrealistic goals” for the Biden administration. He suggested it will be difficult and time-consuming for President-elect Joe Biden’s team to rewrite Trump-era rules.
“I would encourage them not to spend a long time repealing things and then enacting new things. That would eat up a lot of time,” Wheeler added. “That would be destructive. That would just cause a whiplash with the regulated community and the American public.”
For example, Wheeler argued the Biden team doesn’t have to get rid of Trump administration changes to fuel economy standards in order to move more aggressively to cut vehicle emissions or encourage electric cars.
The Trump administration’s changes eliminated the “offramps” and credits automakers could use to comply with fuel economy limits, requiring companies to make more direct efficiency improvements, Wheeler said.
Even so, the Trump administration sharply weakened the fuel economy standards, requiring just a 1.5% year-over-year improvement, as opposed to the 5% improvements the Obama-era rules would have required. Biden has said issuing stricter fuel economy requirements is a top priority.
While Wheeler said he doesn’t agree with any mandates to adopt more electric cars, he added, “I don’t think it’s necessary to repeal because all of our regulations are based on the laws themselves.”
Policy changes won’t tie Biden’s hands
Wheeler was also quick to dispute the notion that his EPA put forward policies that would make it harder for the Biden administration to tighten pollution controls.
Environmentalists have argued rule-makings the EPA has raced to finish in its final weeks, including changes to how the agency calculates the costs and benefits of air pollution rules and restrictions on what types of science the EPA can use in setting policy, would pose huge roadblocks to Biden’s agenda.
Just this week, too, the EPA issued a rule requiring an industry to account for at least 3% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions before triggering emissions controls. That could rule out regulations for oil and gas producers, petroleum refineries, and heavy industry.
Environmentalists say Biden’s first order of business should be to remove those rule-makings.
“Not at all. It doesn’t make it more difficult in the least,” Wheeler said when asked if those rules would make it harder for the EPA to issue stricter standards.
He blamed “lazy” environmentalists and people in the media for misconstruing the actions. Wheeler hopes the Biden administration will “sit down and review our regulations” before passing judgment.
A warning call for Biden
So far, though, Wheeler said the Biden transition team has been most interested in briefings on climate change and “environmental justice” issues. The EPA has already held more than 55 briefings with the transition team over the last several weeks.
One of Wheeler’s concerns is the Biden team will focus almost solely on climate change, as he argues the Obama administration did, at the expense of other environmental issues such as cleaning up toxic waste sites under the Superfund program or helping cities and states meet air quality standards.
Wheeler argued, for example, that the Obama administration had a “wake-up call” in 2014, when Flint, Michigan, experienced lead contamination that left many of its residents sick.
“They sat on the data for a year and didn't do a damn thing about it,” Wheeler said of the Obama EPA, adding when his team began working on updating the lead and copper standards, it realized the prior administration “hadn’t really done the work.”
Late last year, Wheeler unveiled, alongside the new mayor of Flint, updates to decades-old standards dealing with lead in drinking water that he says will drive more lead pipe replacements and allow people earlier warnings when contamination occurs.
Environmentalists, however, have said the updates are far too weak and would give water utilities more time to replace their pipes. On Friday, a number of environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and the NAACP, sued the EPA over the rule.
Advice for his successor
Wheeler said he hopes his successor will come to the EPA with an open mind and a willingness to work across the agency.
“The worst thing for an administrator to do is to come in here and spend all their time on one or two projects and not spend time with the career employees and all the programs,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler acknowledged that every EPA administrator, including himself, enters the job with prejudices. Before joining the Trump EPA, Wheeler spent years as a top Republican staffer on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and as a lobbyist for companies across the energy industry.
“It's important to have an open mind and listen to the scientists, listen to the career staff, and then make the best decision possible,” he said.
As an example, Wheeler said he didn’t know a lot about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, when he came to the agency. Those man-made chemicals, typically found in cookware, food packaging, and stain repellent, have been found to have adverse health effects.
At first, Wheeler said he didn’t know whether PFAS were a big deal or if concerns about the chemicals were overblown.
“I sat down with the head career scientist on PFAS, and I said, ‘Give me the data. Give me the background.’ It was just the two of us,” Wheeler recalled, saying the briefing lasted an hour. “I walked away from that saying, ‘We’ve got to do something about this. We really have to take it seriously.’”
Overall, Wheeler believes his tenure proves the EPA can issue "cost-effective regulations that don’t harm American jobs or the economy and reduce pollution at the same time."
Even though there’s more work to be done, he said, the United States should be "proud" of the reductions in pollution it has achieved over the last several decades. Under Wheeler’s tenure, the EPA celebrated its 50th anniversary.
However, Wheeler cautioned that in the U.S., politics could be one of the biggest impediments to reducing pollution.
He pointed to massive political fundraising that focuses on environmental issues, particularly from Democrats, that he said sows divisions among lawmakers when there should be agreement on how to address environmental challenges.
“It’s not conducive to getting things done when there’s an immediate knee-jerk reaction that something must be bad because it was proposed by Republicans,” Wheeler said. “So many of our regulations were attacked just because they were our regulations, when these regulations are improving the environment.”News Energy and Environment EPA Andrew Wheeler Climate Change Greenhouse Gases Fuel Efficiency Air Pollution Water Pollution