Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Wednesday said she’ll vote against confirming Andrew Wheeler, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, making her the first Republican senator to do so.
“Due to the actions Mr. Wheeler has taken during his tenure at the EPA, I will vote against his confirmation,” Collins said in a statement. “The policies he has supported as acting administrator are not in the best interest of our environment and public health, particularly given the threat of climate change to our nation.”
Collins said she believes Wheeler is qualified for the position, but that she has “too many concerns” about the decisions he’s made as the EPA’s acting administrator. Wheeler was appointed to temporarily lead the EPA after Scott Pruitt resigned his role as administrator amid numerous ethics scandals in July.
Collins, who likely faces a challenging re-election campaign in 2020, was the only Republican to vote against Pruitt’s confirmation. She voted in favor of Wheeler’s confirmation as the EPA’s deputy administrator in April 2018.
Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, has come under fire from Democrats and environmental activists for proposing anti-science, pro-fossil fuels policies since assuming control of the EPA.
In the seven months since he took over the agency, Wheeler has pushed for legislation that guts fuel economy standards for new vehicles, weakens Obama-era power plant regulations and softens restrictions on mercury and other dangerous pollutants released into the air by coal-fired plants.
Wheeler questioned conclusions drawn by his agency’s own scientists who reported in November that global warming is rapidly worsening and threatened to intervene in the next report’s drafting.
“I believe climate change is a global issue that must be addressed globally,” Wheeler told a Senate committee during his confirmation hearing last month. “I would not call it the greatest crisis.”
His comments fly in the face of a nearly universal assessment from climate scientists who say the world will face catastrophic planetary changes in the next few decades if global warming isn’t immediately addressed.
This story has been updated to include additional details about Collins’ voting record on Wheeler.