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Colorado Moms Weigh In on Trump's EPA Nominee

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Andrew Wheeler, President Donald Trump's pick to lead the EPA, told senators that climate change is real and a global problem, but doesn't view it as a crisis that must be addressed in an aggressive way. (USDA)
Andrew Wheeler, President Donald Trump's pick to lead the EPA, told senators that climate change is real and a global problem, but doesn't view it as a crisis that must be addressed in an aggressive way. (USDA)
 By Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO - Producer, Contact
January 18, 2019

LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Moms in Colorado and across the nation are asking members of Congress to think twice before confirming Andrew Wheeler to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Wheeler, a former coal-industry lobbyist, made the case to U.S. senators on Wednesday that the EPA's actions under the Trump administration show that regulations aren't necessary to drive environmental progress.

Mother of three Julie Piller of Lafayette attended the hearing, as a volunteer with the group Moms Clean Air Force. She says the EPA should be taking action to improve air quality standards, not rolling them back.

"We need somebody that will boldly and honestly highlight what the real concerns of our air quality are, and what health dangers are, and move to boldly address them," says Piller.

The Trump administration's EPA has worked to roll back numerous protections, including fuel efficiency and emissions standards for cars, and limits to mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Wheeler defended the EPA's work, arguing that fewer standards will keep vehicles affordable. He said protecting health and the environment would be his most important responsibility.

Under Wheeler as acting chief, the EPA opened the door for legal challenges to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard by revoking the agency's determination that it's "appropriate and necessary."

Piller notes mercury affects brain development in infants, which impacts a child's ability to walk, talk and read. While Wheeler agreed it wouldn't make sense to remove scrubbers already installed at some power plants to reduce mercury emissions, Piller was not convinced.

"But if you're not enforcing it, or you're allowing new plants to be built without that same technology, then you really are going to harm any progress that has been made," says Piller.

Companies have invested $18 billion to meet the current standard, and according to the Edison Electric Institute, pollution has dropped by almost 90 percent. In addition to mercury, coal-fired power plants release other toxins, including arsenic, benzene, cadmium, formaldehyde and lead.

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