EPA’s Wheeler Looks To Second Term Goals: Removing Agency Silos, Community Collaboration
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s quest to deliver environmental justice and look forward to a second Trump term includes directing a more efficient and responsive collaboration with local officials, the agency head said earlier this week.
“EPA turns 50 years old this year, and we have a very rich history,” Wheeler said. Looking at the next 50 years, he added, “we need to tear down the silos within the agency. We have our air office, we have our water office, we have our waste office and chemical office. We need to be taking more of a cross-medium approach,” he continued.
“One of the focuses of the second term will be how we can address the environmental problem on a community by community basis, instead of just going in and saying, ‘we’re here to help you with your Superfund site or groundwater problem,’” Wheeler said. “We need to be taking more of a holistic approach” in caring for communities’ water, air, and other environmental problems, not just issue by issue, he explained.
That includes an “aggressive” approach to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These synthetic chemicals can be found in both consumer and industrial products and can be released into the soil and water sources. PFAS health effects continue to be studied, and cleanup efforts are ongoing.
“With federal technical assistance efforts underway across the country, the Trump Administration is bringing much needed support to state, tribal, and local governments as part of the agency’s unprecedented efforts under the PFAS Action Plan,” said Wheeler. “These partnerships allow for collaboration, encourage cutting edge research, and information sharing—ensuring that our joint efforts are effective and protective of public health.”
Collaboration with local officials and residents, whether on removing metals or PFAS, and access to information is critical, Wheeler said. “The public will also be better informed as EPA makes facility groundwater monitoring data more accessible and understandable,” EPA said in a separate release.
Wheeler visited Wyoming and Montana last week where he signed a memo of understanding (MOU) with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Wyoming’s historic uranium sites and visited a converted depot that is now a brewpub near Kalispell, Montana. This week he toured the Colorado Smelter Superfund Site in Pueblo, Colorado. He was joined by EPA Associate Deputy Administrator Doug Benevento and Region 8 Administrator Greg Sopkin, as well as local officials on his three-state swing.
According to Wheeler, the administrator should take note of successes but should also acknowledge ongoing projects, such as the one in Pueblo, and not just show up to accept accolades once the project is completed. “I’m here in the middle [of the project] to see how things are going and to see what we can do better, not only here. What can we take from lessons learned here to apply to other sites in the west, and then the entire country,” Wheeler concluded.
The administrator visited EPA Region 8 headquarters in Denver Tuesday, before departing for Washington, D.C.