Notes from the Kakistocracy: Pollution "watchdog" was lawyer for polluters

This is starting to read like a really bad dystopian future novel:

As a corporate lawyer, William L. Wehrum worked for the better part of a decade to weaken air pollution rules by fighting the Environmental Protection Agency in court on behalf of chemical manufacturers, refineries, oil drillers and coal-burning power plants. Now, Mr. Wehrum is about to deliver one of the biggest victories yet for his industry clients — this time from inside the Trump administration as the government’s top air pollution official.

On Tuesday, President Trump is expected to propose a vast rollback of regulations on emissions from coal plants, including many owned by members of a coal-burning trade association that had retained Mr. Wehrum and his firm as recently as last year to push for the changes.

If Trump was merely "incompetent," his staffing decisions would be bad enough. But we've gone far beyond a lesser (or least) qualified appointee, and into the realm of a "fox in the hen house." And for those who saw a glimmer of hope in the possible rift between Trump and the Koch Brothers, put those hopes back in your pocket:

Mr. Wehrum has represented major industrial companies like Koch Industries, the diversified conglomerate that sells everything from petrochemicals to asphalt, and Diageo, one of the world’s largest makers of spirits, including Smirnoff vodka and Baileys Irish Cream. His clients have included the industry’s largest trade associations: the American Petroleum Institute, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, the Brick Industry Association and the Utility Air Regulatory Group, whose membership list features coal-burning electric utilities.

The overlap between Mr. Wehrum’s work for the industry and his efforts since he arrived at the E.P.A. is perhaps best illustrated by a 13-page petrochemical industry memo that was shared with the E.P.A. air pollution office a week before Mr. Wehrum was confirmed by the Senate.

The memo, which detailed a series of “regulatory changes that would be most beneficial to the refining and petrochemical sector,” almost reads like a playbook for the 10 months since Mr. Wehrum arrived at the E.P.A. At least three of the major changes on the industry wish list have become or are in the process of becoming official agency policy with the help of Mr. Wehrum and his office.

You know what? I don't want to hear any more crap about how the "two parties are just the same," or how "corporate Democrats sold out the American people," or any other such nonsense. What we're seeing now is true corruption, along with a Republican Congress that is aiding and abetting that corruption. And we're not just talking about money; it's putting our health at risk, and the very people who are supposed to be protecting us are holding the pillow over our faces. So file that false equivalency bullshit where it belongs, in the back of your mind where other wild theories are sequestered.

As to my accusation of aiding and abetting, Republicans in the U.S. Senate were well aware Wehrum would be going after air pollution rules once he moved into the EPA:

He also worked over a decade ago to try to block California from implementing more stringent vehicle standards. At another point in his confirmation hearing, Wehrum demurred when asked by California Sen. Kamala Harris if he’d pledge not to try to undo the state’s more stringent air quality regulations.

Notably, Wehrum is a major critic of the endangerment finding, a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that gives the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Peeling back that authority is seen as a prize for many industry groups Wehrum has represented, that have reportedly been miffed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt hasn’t moved faster to dismantle it.

Just a clarification: That Supreme Court ruling didn't just "give authority" to the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, it directed the Agency to do so. So Wehrum can't actually get rid of that ruling, but he can replace Obama's program with another one that does literally nothing to reduce those emissions. And it will take another lawsuit to demonstrate it doesn't comply with the original Court ruling. Isn't that special?

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