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Out with one EPA official with close ties to big polluters, in with Anne Idsal, a little-known, politically connected Texan with a shaky grasp on climate science.
Bill Wehrum, the EPA’s top air quality official who helped roll back Obama-era rules, announced earlier this week that he would step down amid an ethics investigation into his ties to former clients the agency regulates. The move has opened up a spot for Idsal, who has been serving as principal deputy assistant administrator in the agency’s Office of Air and Radiation and reporting to Wehrum.
The office is a powerful part of the EPA, responsible for administering the Clean Air Act and overseeing regulations over air pollution. Historically, the office has been responsible for some of the country’s most ambitious efforts to clean up the air. But under the Trump administration, the department has taken a more business-friendly approach. Wehrum has led the charge on halting improvements to automobile efficiency standards and repealing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, a policy to cut emissions from coal plants.
As interim director, Idsal will be responsible for continuing that work. The office recently replaced the Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which loosens emissions regulations (and is sure to face legal challenges). California and 16 other states have also sued the agency over its rollback of fuel efficiency standards.