VIDEO: Peters Speaks on Senate Vote in Opposition to Wheeler Nomination and Need to Address Climate Change

Peters: “We need a leader who will fight to protect the people and the interests of my state. Given his abysmal record - it’s clear that Andrew Wheeler isn’t the right person for the job, and that is why I voted against his confirmation.”

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) spoke on the Senate floor today in opposition to the Senate confirmation of Andrew Wheeler as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Below is video of his remarks and text as prepared for delivery: 

“I rise today to discuss why I voted in opposition to the confirmation of Andrew Wheeler for the position of Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Clean air and clean water are not only vital to our public health – they are at the very heart of our economy. Nowhere is that more apparent than in my home state of Michigan – where we are blessed to be surrounded by the Great Lakes – a source of fresh drinking water for more than 40 million people – and the lifeblood of our state’s multi-billion dollar fishing, shipping and tourism industries. 

“That’s why I have spent my entire career in public service fighting to protect our environment. In the Michigan State Senate – I worked to ban oil drilling under the Great Lakes – to preserve our most precious source of clean drinking water. When I represented the City of Detroit in the U.S House of Representatives, I fought to end harmful air pollution coming from piles of petcoke that left homes coated in dust while being breathed into the lungs of residents.

“In my first term in Congress, I supported landmark climate change legislation that sought to drastically reduce deadly greenhouse gas emissions that are continuing to warm our planet at an unsustainable rate. In the U.S. Senate, I’ve led the charge to protect the Great Lakes from pipeline spills – and pressured industry to cut down their deadly sulfur dioxide emissions that gave Michigan communities some of the highest rates of asthma in the country.

“I have championed these vital efforts because protecting our environment is in Michigan’s best interest – and I will never let up on this fight.  There is so much more work to do and even more pressing challenges ahead of us. We cannot afford to turn back the clock on clean energy innovation or refuse to address climate change– and that is unfortunately what we can expect from the EPA now that Andrew Wheeler has been confirmed.

“His entire career has been devoted to undermining public health and environmental protections. As Acting EPA Administrator, he is personally responsible for the most significant efforts to rollback our nation’s bedrock environmental laws in the agency’s history. He oversaw the proposed rollback of Clean Water Act protections that safeguard drinking water for tens of millions of people. He is leading efforts to weaken standards on the largest sources of greenhouse gases – and reduce protections against climate change.

“When he was a Senate staffer – he drafted the so-called “Clear Skies Act” which was directly intended to undermine the Clean Air Act. As a lobbyist for Murray Energy, Wheeler represented a company that didn’t just knowingly violate environmental laws, but consistently put its own employees’ safety at risk by undermining basic protections for coal miners. He has even undermined the widely supported Mercury Air Toxics Standards.

“These commonsense standards would have protected people – particularly children - from a well-known neurotoxin that impairs fetal brain development and reduces children’s ability to learn. Every single one of these actions has a direct bearing on human lives, and has put people at risk.

“In Michigan – we have witnessed firsthand the visceral and painful human costs when public leaders fail to keep our drinking water and our air quality safe. Just ask the people of Flint whom they want in charge of protecting their drinking water. It certainly isn’t Andrew Wheeler. The city, the state, and the EPA all contributed to the crisis that poisoned thousands of children through lead exposure – and now those children will suffer lasting consequences for the rest of their lives.

“While I’m proud that the Senate was able to come together to provide initial federal funding to help Flint replace its lead pipes – the community needs continued support going forward. I am committed to doing everything in my power to ensure the people of Flint are made whole – and that included me opposing this nomination. We cannot allow the failures of leadership that led to Flint’s devastating crises ever be repeated again.

“The people of Michigan – and of every state – deserve to know that their air is safe to breath and their water is safe to drink. Yet communities across my state – and around the country – are facing another emerging drinking water crisis – this time from toxic fluorinated chemicals – known as PFAS – that are currently unregulated by EPA. Rigorous testing has found that one out of every ten water systems in my state has unacceptably high rates of PFAS chemicals. Families across the state have been exposed to these dangerous chemicals that have been linked to cancer, thyroid and heart problems and even autoimmune issues. 

“But under Wheeler’s leadership, the EPA has failed to take aggressive action to list PFAS chemicals as hazardous wastes—and to establish strong enforceable limits to protect drinking water and limit exposure to these toxic substances.  While I have worked to bring Senate action to this issue through legislation and hearings, the Wheeler led EPA thinks action can wait. Michigan families deserve better.

“My constituents are understandably concerned about their drinking water, and they are rightfully skeptical about who will be at the helm of the agency charged with keeping their water safe. And since Wheeler has failed to exercise the leadership needed to address the environmental concerns we face on a national level – it’s clear that he is completely unprepared to lead the agency charged with tackling the global crisis of climate change.

“We must confront climate change!  I’ve been advocating for action since before I ran for Congress—it’s an issue impacting our economy, our health and safety, and our national security. I am committed to continuing to work with my colleagues to find innovation and achievable solutions to address climate change – but we also need a leader at EPA who can help find commonsense ways to address this very serious threat, protect our environment, and ensure that our country can remain economically competitive.

“We need a leader who will fight to protect the people and the interests of my state. Given his abysmal record – it’s clear that Andrew Wheeler isn’t the right person for the job, and that is why I voted against his confirmation.”