On the heels of dire scientific reports and unprecedented focus brought to the issues by our new Congress, climate change and environmental stewardship are sure to be major areas of debate in the upcoming presidential campaign. In fact, recent polling shows that only health care rivals climate solutions as a top priority for Democratic voters in early primary states. Candidates will be expected to make their credentials clear.
For those candidates that find themselves with a day job as “senator,” there’s a big opportunity to show America that these issues are a priority for them. This week, the Senate is expected to vote on the nomination of Andrew Wheeler for EPA Administrator. Senators serious about climate change and our environment should adamantly reject his nomination—and should use the debate to bring attention to the danger that Wheeler poses to American families and communities.
Wheeler is a former coal lobbyist who, in his capacity as Acting-Administrator, has waged an all-out assault on core public health and environmental protections. He has sought to undo or weaken rules that keep people safe from mercury pollution, climate pollution, and toxic chemicals. His agenda would unleash more pollution into our air and water and continue the Trump administration’s dangerous policy of ignoring our climate crisis.
Prior to the vote on Wheeler, Senators will be given the chance to take the Senate floor. It is an opportunity to speak clearly and definitively about why Wheeler should not be allowed to serve atop EPA. It is, in short, an opportunity for the 2020 hopefuls to show they will not stand by as this administration attacks our most foundational protections, mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren. Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s even smart politics: polling in the key swing states of North Carolina, Maine, Colorado and Arizona shows that in each state no more than 26% of people support Wheeler’s confirmation.
Other polling adds to the case. In several battleground states at least 72% support moving to 100 percent clean energy by 2045, at least 85% want the US to take action on climate change, and at least 60% disapprove of the Trump administration’s handling of climate change.
Climate change is an urgent threat—one that should no longer be talked about in the context of future decades, but rather what it means right now, today. Andrew Wheeler is a similar threat. His confirmation would mean more pollution, more people getting sick and more Americans dying as a result.
We are in a race against time—a point that candidates have made sharply. To have Andrew Wheeler serving as EPA Administrator would only push the clock ahead. Savvy climate policy does not only look at the solutions needed to combat a warming world, it defends against the outsized influence of industry urging backward policy to protect profits. Our Senators can be that first line of defense right now – and for those Senators that want to be President, it will be their first real shot at showing us they have what it takes.