(Bloomberg) -- EPA chief Andrew Wheeler boasted Monday the Trump administration has done more than any other to clean up the environment, calling the agency’s record of progress “incontrovertible.”
But his predecessors and former officials at the agency say any environmental gains have come in spite of Trump’s policy making -- not because of it.
The sparring comes as both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden seek to woo voters concerned about the environment.
“We have done more in the first four years of the Trump administration to improve the environment than probably any administration except perhaps during the very first years of EPA,” Wheeler, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a speech Monday. “It is incontrovertible that today the environment is in better shape under President Trump than we found it.”
Wheeler highlighted a 15% decline in U.S. energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide since 2005, saying the foregone greenhouse gas emissions out pace those of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Canada combined -- and come even as China’s emissions have surged 50%. Wheeler also cited agency moves to clean up toxic Superfund sites and clear a backlog of unapproved state plans for combating air pollution as well as congressional spending on U.S. drinking water infrastructure.
“The Trump administration has epitomized and carried out, more than any other administration, the core mission of the EPA, which is to protect human health and the environment,” Wheeler said Monday.
Former EPA leaders have spent weeks warning the opposite is true, with six former chiefs -- including those serving under Republican presidents -- outlining a blueprint for a post-election “reset” of the agency last month.
“EPA Administrator Wheeler has been unrelenting in his efforts to defy science and deny the agency’s obligation to protect public health and the environment from the myriad harms of air and water pollution,” said Joe Goffman, a former EPA associate assistant administrator who is now an executive director of Harvard University’s Environmental and Energy Law Program.
Recent reductions in pollution “are occurring as a result of regulations and investments put in place by the Obama administration, and in spite of the Trump EPA’s continual pursuit of deregulation,” Goffman added.
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