If this EPA official is following ethics rules, we need new rules

Credit: Greg Goebel via Flickr

Stop me if you've heard this one before: A former lobbyist is now regulating the industry he once worked for. That's the case for yet another Trump administration official. When Bill Wehrum was a partner at Hunton & Williams, coal plant owners paid the lobbying firm millions to help them fight Obama-era environmental protections. Now Wehrum is one of the top air pollution regulators at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Since his Senate confirmation in late 2017, Wehrum has been fulfilling some of his old clients' biggest wishes—rollbacks such as undermining restrictions on mercury pollution from smokestacks and weakening the New Source Review air pollution safeguards. While Wehrum has disclosed his lobbying past, new documents obtained by Politico show just how aggressively (and how recently) Wehrum was still in the lobbying game. In 2017, a total of 25 power companies, including heavy-hitters like Duke Energy, and six industry trade groups agreed to pay a total of $8.2 million to Wehrum’s former firm. The deal came fewer than three months before Wehrum became an EPA official tasked with working on behalf of public health. Perhaps most concerning: Current ethics rules don’t prohibit Wehrum from working on rules that apply broadly across an industry. As one ethics expert Kathleen Clark puts it, "The scandal here is what is legal.”


Related Content