Notes from the Kakistocracy: The final days of Andrew Wheeler

Moving to cripple the Biden administration's corrective measures:

Current and former E.P.A. staff and advisers close to the transition said Mr. Biden’s team has focused on preparing a rapid assault on the Trump administration’s deregulatory legacy and re-establishing air and water protections and methane emissions controls.

Racing against those efforts is Mr. Wheeler, who has a long list of priorities that aides and confidants said he is determined to complete before Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. He has also maneuvered legally to erect time-consuming hurdles that Mr. Biden will have to clear to unwind some Trump administration policies.

While I find much comfort in knowing there are many career employees in the EPA who are actively opposing Wheeler at this juncture, I fear it will get ugly before it's finally over in late January. Republicans would refer to these folks as "Deep State" operatives, but I prefer the term "Fifth Column." They are fighting for the integrity of the Agency, and for the health and well-being of American citizens. I'm sure many will say they should have done so sooner, but the only "outsiders" who wield influence in Trump's administration are industry lobbyists and conspiracy theorists. Being fired takes you off the gameboard completely. Back to Wheeler's crusade to destroy the environment:

At the top of Mr. Wheeler’s to-do list is finalizing the science rule, officially called “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science.”

Under it, the agency would have to dismiss or give less weight to scientific studies that fail to release all their raw data to the public. Mr. Wheeler says the rule’s opponents prefer that regulatory decisions be made in “a back room, a proverbial smoke filled room.”

But thousands of medical and scientific organizations say the plan would cripple the E.P.A.’s ability to create new air and water protections because people who participate in epidemiological or long-term health studies that examine exposure to toxins typically take part only if their personal health information is kept private.

This amounts to a frontal assault on HIPAA, especially the part about releasing the data to the public. It doesn't matter that Wheeler's underlying goal is to discourage people physically harmed by toxic pollution to take part in studies; the directive itself should be considered illegal. And both DHHS and the DOJ should be telling Wheeler to drop that in the shredder or else.

Here's another jewel Wheeler is championing:

The E.P.A. also is expected to finalize in the coming weeks a rule on industrial soot pollution, which is linked to respiratory diseases, including those caused by the coronavirus. The rule is expected to leave in place a 2012 standard on fine soot from smokestacks and tailpipes, known as PM 2.5, ignoring the E.P.A.’s own scientists, who wrote last year that the existing rule contributes to about 45,000 deaths per year from respiratory diseases, and that tightening it could save about 10,000 of those lives.

In April, a study published by researchers at Harvard linked long-term soot exposure and Covid-19 death rates. The study found that a person living for decades in a county with high levels of fine particulate matter is 15 percent more likely to die from the coronavirus than someone in a region with one unit less of the fine particulate pollution.

Of course that fine particulate matter issue is teeming with environmental justice concerns, but people like Andrew Wheeler don't even consider things like that. He can't be gone soon enough.

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Comments

It should be easy enough for the Biden team...

to get rid of the Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science rule without having to jump through all of the rule-making hoops. Just have Justice issue an opinion that it is a violation of federal law (HIPAA) and strike it that way. Then everything reverts to the old rules which were perfectly fine. There will be plenty of other rules they'll have to take out (or reimpose) the hard way, so we may as well dispense with this one as quickly and neatly as possible.

That makes sense

But it may be that DHHS would need to make the complaint to DOJ first, to get that ball rolling with the momentum of two Executive departments. But it should work.