The Check In: Andrew Wheeler and the Environmental Protection Agency

The Check In: Andrew Wheeler and the Environmental Protection Agency
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    -While we have been focused
    on the daily chaos and controversy
    surrounding the Trump administration,
    the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency
    continues to carry out Trump's dangerous agenda.
    It's time for "The Check-In."
    [ Cheers and applause ]
    -It's been just a little over a month
    since Andrew Wheeler became the acting director of the EPA.
    And on the surface, it seemed like Wheeler
    would be a different kind of leader
    than his scandal-ridden predecessor Scott Pruitt.
    At least that's how he tried to sell himself to employees
    when he took the helm at the EPA.
    Just like me, you came to EPA to help the environment.
    We have important work before us.
    To quote my favorite author, Shakespeare,
    "We know what we are, but know not what we may be."
    -Oh, Shakespeare is your favorite?
    What a classy way to admit
    you haven't read anything since college.
    And Shakespeare is a playwright, not an author.
    If he's your favorite, you should know that.
    Also, no one's favorite playwright is Shakespeare.
    "Romeo and Juliet" is freshman busy work, and we all know it.
    And it is not a good sign that the head of the EPA
    loves a writer who poisons half of his characters to death.
    Now, before his stint at the EPA,
    Wheeler was a coal lobbyist,
    a job he took after working for arguably
    the most anti-science and anti-EPA senator from Oklahoma,
    Republican Jim Inhofe.
    Inhofe refers to global warming as the greatest hoax.
    And in 2015, in an effort to try to disprove climate change,
    he famously brought a snowball
    onto the floor of the U.S. Senate.
    -In case we have forgotten because we keep hearing
    that 2014 has been the warmest year on record,
    I ask the chair, you know what this is?
    It's a snowball.
    And it's just from outside here.
    So it's very, very cold out. Very unseasonal.
    So Mr. President, catch this. Mm-hmm.
    -That's right, he brought a snowball into the Senate,
    and the snowball fit right in
    because most Senators look like they're melting.
    [ Laughter ]
    Back in the freezer, boys.
    And a report said that Wheeler
    wasn't exactly pining for this job.
    In fact, he was all too happy to dismantle President Obama's
    pro-environment agenda behind the scenes.
    -Wheeler is quoted as having said
    that he did not want the job, that he never wanted the job,
    but there are a lot of insiders who think
    he could actually be even more effective than Pruitt was
    because he is so low key.
    But he has the same agenda.
    -That worries environmentalists,
    who say Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist,
    will pick up exactly where Pruitt left off,
    favoring the fossil fuel industry over the environment.
    -In a new article that was published by Politico,
    environmentalists say Wheeler, who's a former coal lobbyist,
    should, "scare anyone who breathes."
    -So he should scare anyone who breathes?
    Well, then, watch out, Mr. President.
    -[ Breathing heavily ]
    [ Laughter ]
    -[ As Trump ] Getting...woozy.
    Too much fossil fuels.
    [ Laughter ]
    [ Normal voice ] And, of course, it's ultimately Trump
    who decides the policy.
    And here's what Wheeler claimed Trump directed him to do
    at the EPA moving forward.
    -He said clean up the air, clean up the water,
    and provide regulatory relief.
    I think we can do all three of those things at the same time.
    -No, you can't do all those things at the same time.
    You can't have clean water and clean air
    and roll back regulations that are in place to ensure
    that the air and water are clean.
    A restaurant that wants to get a passing health grade
    doesn't put up a sign in the bathroom that says...
    [ Laughter ]
    And with just a little over a month under his belt,
    it's already clear where Wheeler's loyalties lie.
    -Andrew Wheeler is not wasting any time
    rolling back regulations on the coal industry.
    This week, the new acting director signed new rules
    that gives companies and states more authority
    to regulate waste from burned coal and ash.
    -And one of the realities of coal-burning plants
    is that you need a place to dispose of the waste.
    And that traditionally has meant coal ash ponds like this.
    It may look like a beautiful lake,
    but it is basically an unlined pit in the ground
    with millions of tons of ash.
    Mercury, cadmium, arsenic --
    contaminants associated with cancer.
    -Hey, kids, we're going for a swim in Cancer Lake!
    [ Laughter ]
    Last one in is a rotten egg. Also, first one in.
    Actually, anyone who goes in
    will become a rotten, cancerous egg.
    Now, shortly after that decision was made,
    Wheeler had his first hearing as acting head of the EPA,
    and some Democrats seemed so thrilled at the mere fact
    that Andrew Wheeler was not Scott Pruitt
    that they went the extra mile
    to try to make him feel comfortable.
    Just take Democratic Senator Tom Carper
    who came bearing gifts while noting the differences
    between Wheeler and Pruitt's preferred beverages.
    -Washington Post noted that we were trading
    an administrator who was known for, "sipping organic juice
    infused with kale"
    for an acting administrator who collects Coca-Cola memorabilia.
    And what that said, Mr. Wheeler,
    I have something to present to you today
    as we begin this hearing to add to your collection.
    Something that my staff found for sale in, of all places,
    the Senate cafeteria.
    I thought you might like to have it.
    It's a bottle of Coca-Cola.
    It actually has the word Wheeler on it.
    I don't know if you have some special deal.
    [ Laughs ]
    Something in your life we don't know about, Andrew,
    but this is very interesting.
    But this is your bottle.
    -Man, it does not take much to impress Senators.
    "It's a sody-pop with your name on it!"
    [ Laughter ]
    Also, the fact that Scott Pruitt drank kale juice
    is like the one thing that made sense for an EPA head,
    and you have to bust on him for that?
    Our last EPA head drank vegetable juice.
    But you drink sugar water poison that comes in a plastic bottle!
    I think we're heading in the right direction.
    And just one day after that hearing,
    the EPA made this announcement.
    -Today, the administration announced its first big step
    to weaken fuel efficiency standards.
    Standards that are, let's be clear,
    a win-win for the consumer and the environment
    since higher fuel efficiency standards
    means consumers pay less in fuel costs,
    and there is less carbon put in the atmosphere,
    and the Earth is better off.
    -But I guess we shouldn't be surprised
    that these kinds of decisions are being made,
    considering that one of the members
    on the EPA's board of science advisers,
    a panel which helps develop policy,
    Robert Phalen, once said
    the children need to breathe irritants because modern air...
    A little too clean?
    That's like your dentist saying, "If you keep flossing,
    your gums will never learn to fight for themselves!"
    Now, reports say what makes Wheeler potentially
    even more dangerous than Pruitt is his...
    So he's not less evil, he's just more patient.
    It's like when you're pulling a prank
    and your friend wants to write "Dave sucks" on Dave's locker
    and you go, "No, we'll write it on his lawn in fertilizer.
    Then we wait."
    [ Laughter ]
    Even worse, over the weekend, Trump once again proved
    that he doesn't understand anything about the environment
    when he tweeted about the wildfires in California.
    -So no mention of any role that climate change
    might be playing in these ongoing fires.
    -Okay, first of all, "must also tree clear
    to stop fire spreading"?
    Things are so bad at the white house,
    even the prepositions are leaving.
    [ Laughter ]
    Also, his solution to forest fires
    is not to tackle climate change,
    but instead to get rid of the trees?
    I can't believe he found a way to victim-blame forest fires.
    [ As Trump ] "Look, if you're a tree and you wear wood,
    I've got to be honest, you're kind of asking for it."
    [ Laughter ]
    [ Normal voice ] This has been "The Check-In."
    [ Cheers and applause ]
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